Friday, September 08, 2006

Swiftly Converted

Another from Archives of Earfood:

Written on Thursday, September 29 2005 after experiencing a pretty breath-taking surprise on a late night at the Nick:

The Posies were the reason that I was standing at the bar last Wednesday night, drink in my hand, joy in my heart. I had waited ten years to see them play and sat there in quiet anticipation with my little notebook and my circle of friends. It was early and the Posies weren't to play for a while yet. Richard Swift and the Sons of National Freedom took the stage for their sound check. I turned my head sideways for a glance as they all turned and tuned their thoughts and instruments...then a wall of sound burst forth. Who are these guys? What is this? Everyone at the bar around me stopped for a moment and looked up. The music was a haunting, solid, intricate affair, traces of ragtime, sweet and sour, full of driving melodies. It was not like anything I've been listening to lately, but then again, walked along side the recent work of M Ward and Sufjan Stevens with a little skip and a wink. I helped myself out of the leopard clad barstool and walked over to Jason Maston, Richard Swift's merch guy to get the 411.

Jason smiled warmly as I sat on my knees on the Nick floor staring up at him with an excited questioning glance...he told me that Richard writes everything, recorded almost everything on his albums. Everyone on the tour, every musician is a good friend of Richard's who wanted to come out and support him. Jason referred to Richard as the one area of his life that he really believes in. I saw that devotion in these amazing musicians throughout the set, each playing off the other, Rich Young and his tight accommodating rhythms, Byron Hagon, trading places with Swift at the keys, then effortlessly switching back to another keyboard and laptop with a face full of busy intent. Bassist Eli Thompson sang quiet harmonies as Erick Cole stared patiently at the floor, long arms caressing the guitar with each gentle note. I'm not sure if it was a surprise at all when Swift began to play the keys at one point and every member of his band put down their instruments, walked off of the stage and around to the front. They stood, arms folded, glistening, happy, into the moment as if they had come to the show just to see him play.

The lyrics to each song were searching, desperate, regretful, yet strangely jubilant. I felt as if I had walked up the stairs into the attic of an old vacant house, and had found numerous treasures of an era long pastbut with each memento, each quiet song reflected the hopes and fears and slightly sarcastic turns of a more contemporary memory.

Richard Swift originally released his two LPs the Novelist and Walking Without Effort on Californias Velvet Blue Music. In 2004, they were re-released as a double album under Secretly Canadian. Richard and the Sons of National Freedom will continue touring this fall. Check out their schedule, home movies, and tour diary on their website at

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