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Swag | Catch-All (Yep Roc Records)
According to any dictionary, the word swag means stolen goods ?? that belonging to others. Swag ?? as curious an assembly of musicians as ever there was ?? are masters of the lift, but are more than delighted than to brazenly display the appropriated booty to all; most cheekily to the original owners. What Swag has done with Catch-All is plunder the vaults of music that can only be described as Total Pop. An old boss of mine used to drone on ad infinitum concerning the technical musical genius of The Mavericks, remembered by most as the satanic architects of that single. I didn't take a lot of notice, of course, but those dark times are now back to haunt me. Swag is the brainchild of (at least, touring) Mavericks, Jerry Dale McFadden and Robert Reynolds. Over thousands of touring miles, they endlessly discussed their love of classic pop, particularly that that is British, and of the '60's. They formulated the idea of a Utopian pop-rock outfit that was open to contribution from like-minded individuals, should the idea take them. They would have a floating personnel, pursuing pop Nirvana as and when schedules allowed. Allowed up until now has been a clutch of gigs in Nashville, and the time to joyfully piece together this debut album. On board the Swag clipper, at least for now are Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick, Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, and solo artist Doug Powell. As I said, a rum bunch, but the results of the collaboration are entrancing. There's absolutely no pretension ?? just music created for the sheer joy of doing it. Opener Lone sets the tone with it's Beatles-y / Byrds-ey guitars and harmonies; this is followed by the acoustic Gallic shuffle of Near Perfect Smile, echoing, say, Jellyfish's Russian Hill. Please Don't Tell is in homage to Dave Davies, and the production of the era is spot on. We enter Wondermints and Crowded House ballad territory with When She Awoke, which boasts a glorious vocal from Powell. Louise is 2:45 of lip-smacking pop cream; Different Girl a lush McCartney / Wilson inspired smoochster. Elsewhere we hear The Monkees, Small Faces and, oddly enough, Cheap Trick, all played out in Swag's fantasy garage band-with-a-bit-of-cash style; with verve and panache. It's all great fun. Catch-All is one of those albums that, along with a bucket of coffee, help hugely in facing those often impossible Sunday mornings.

Tom Sheriff
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001