CD Review of Squeal by Swamp Cabbage
Recommended if you like
ZZ Top, Richie Havens,
Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo,
Eric Clapton (1995-present), Phish
Label
Zoho Roots
Swamp Cabbage: Squeal

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD

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W
alter Parks plays guitar like Clapton and sings like Billy Gibbons. As such, country/bluesy rock punctuated with crunchy guitar licks suits his voice. Folksy lyrics like in "Dixieland," which—you guessed it—extols the virtues of bailing out of New York and catching a respite in the cypress swamps of Parks' native Florida panhandle and the woods of Georgia just north. But don't let your anti-"Sweet Home Alabama" predjudice get the best of you: This guy's got some serious guitar chops, and his day job is touring the world as Richie Havens' guitarist. Meaning, he's made his way in the rock world, spends a fair amount of time in Gotham City (and calls Jersey City, NJ home), and there's more sophistication here than meets the eye.

At heart, this Parks project's all about chillin' south of the Mason-Dixon line, putting on the drawl and the black-brimmed hat and jamming out with the good-ol’ boys. The group of studio musicians with whom Parks has surrounded himself in Swamp Cabbage—including a gospel organ player who adds a religioso feel to what would otherwise be raw blues—can definitely keep up with his lead guitar, and the rootsy production takes the potential Skynyrd tiredness right out of Swamp Cabbage and infuses a fresh alterna-country feel.

Some of the cuts are humorous anecdotes; Parks lampoons all the local Bible-thumping missionaries who darken his door on "Poontang," yet gives the Lord his due on the gospel country cut "Delegation" and offers praise for giving him his six-string talents on "Jesus Tone." Other cuts focus on regional themes, like the aforementioned "Dixieland." But Parks and his Swamp Cabbage shine brightest when they just plain shut up and play. Thankfully, the band offers up three instrumentals on Squeal, and they showcase Parks' guitar three ways: "Sopchoppy" is a dirty, sticky funk groove that gives off the reek of low tide on the Gulf shore when it's 100% humidity; "Softshoe" is an easy-picking Chet Atkins country stroll that will make even accomplished guitar players' jaws drop; and "Purdy Mouth" is a banjo-infused electric rocker that is, oddly, at once Appalachian Irish and Texas blues. Speaking of funk, this band can throw down some serious funk when the Dixie beer's chilled to the right temperature and they take a notion to it—not only on "Sopchoppy" but also in "New Voodoo Boogaloo," which sounds like a  mainline ZZ Top song circa  Deguello. Roots-rock records like these are moving Zoho Roots up on my list of favorite labels.

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