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AUDIO JUNKIE: Late, Lamented Discovery

Richard Swift’s falsetto can be likened to Smokey Robinson’s, if the latter had been out all night bingeing on whiskey and cigarettes.





One of the great things about writing this column is when we stumble upon new music. The kind that makes us go “Wow! That was amazing stuff! Why didn’t we get to hear about this one sooner?” That moment came, like hundreds of times before, early this week when we checked on Richard Swift.

A singer-songwriter, on top of the many musical things he can do, Richard is a sought-after sideman that has worked with the likes of alternative rock vets, The Shins, and blues rock revivalists, The Black Keys. More than a triple-threat, Richard knew his way around a guitar, piano/synthesizer, bass and was a learned singer. He was also a production genius and set up his own studio that had its own aesthetic. The retro vibe, and lo-fi sounds of Dan Auerbach, Mark Ronson, and Danger Mouse comes to mind when listening to his production style. And in his own right, he was an exemplary solo artist.

And this was in full display on his 2018 solo album release “The Hex.” The opening title track (“The Hex”) sounds like a Brian Wilson-inspired song; A tripped-out “summer of love” on a mushroom trip. Richard’s falsetto can also be likened to Smokey Robinson’s, if the latter had been out all night bingeing on whiskey and cigarettes.

THE HEX official album art

THE HEX official album art

Richard’s full-on retro vibe on “Broken Finger Blues” sounds like it’s a track cut from the mold of the more edgy side of Motown’s heyday, say Marvin Gaye era of the ’70s. “Selfishmath” is a blues rock infused romp akin to The Black Keys. On other tracks, Richard’s knack for melodicism is uncanny. “Dirty Jim” sounds like a bar room blues ditty from George Gershwin.

Playful, yet dark. Tracks like “Babylon,” the off-kilter “Wendy” and the fevered “Sister Song” and “Nancy” is a mirror to Richard’s psychedelic rock leanings.

Hot tracks include the instrumental rock romp “HZLWD” with its bouncing grooves on bass and the pumping piano motifs that somehow remind us of a Quentin Tarantino movie, perhaps “Kill Bill: Volume 2.”

And as we go through his 11-track solo album, it seems we keep finding some cool sounding track that we like.

The only thing that doesn’t sit in right with this new Richard discovery is that this multi-talented, multi-instrumental genius passed away last July 3, 2018 due to complications from Hepatitis. A disease, it seemed, he incurred from his alcohol addiction throughout the years.

Richard is one for the books. A late and lamented discovery that we wish we had known about much sooner than later.c

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