Swear And Shake
She has Janis Joplin curls that keep draping down into her face, and her expressions at times remind me of old clips I've seen of Joplin. So, I shouldn't have been surprised when two-thirds of the way through the set, Kari Spieler and her band-mates of Swear And Shake did a cover of Me And Bobby McGee. To their credit, they made it sound like their own but like Joplin, there is a magnetism projecting from Spieler that pulls the audience straight into her space.
This past weekend, I happened to catch Swear And Shake at an outdoor music event. Frankly, I had never heard of them but the moment Spieler began singing, I was glad I was there. While her mannerisms may have made me think of Joplin, her musical style is more akin to Neko Case. The band, including fellow members Adam McHeffey and Shaun Savage, performed a lot of original material. And while people weren't familiar with their tunes, they didn't care because of the talent being displayed. It was like being in a record store and buying a cd on a whim and getting home to discover that wow, this is better than the top-selling crap that's been stuffed into your listening ears.
The band wasn't flawless. Taking time later to evaluate what seemed a little off to me, I boiled it down to two things. First, the harmonies to back-up Spieler were sub-par. She is the real singer here, and no offense to the other guys, but it wasn't a good mix vocally at times. It could be they just had an off day. It happens.
But the real issue boiled down to this - and normally the reverse of this is true - that they were determined to be seen as a band. By this I mean, Spieler is the pure on-stage talent here. The change in the audience when Spieler was the focus was palpable. People, including me, just wanted to keep her in front of the microphone and let her sing, sing, sing. There just needs to be more of Spieler in the performance. It isn't my intention to sound harsh on the rest of the band, for they are key components. I just think the set needs to rotate around Spieler more.
I intend to buy some Swear And Shake music. I've already requested them on my favorite radio station, Chirp Radio, which honored the request (like they normally do). I hope to catch them in concert again. It was a delight to have their music work its way into my musical lexicon this past weekend. If they come rolling through your town, do yourself a favor and get a ticket to see them.
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