Swearingen & Kelli

REVIEW: Swearingen & Kelli “Build Myself Up From the Ground”


Swearingen & Kelli – Build Myself Up From the Ground

This is a 6-song EP recorded in TN & features all original songs by the duo except for “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”). A cover of a Kris Kristofferson classic. The duo, AJ Swearingen & Jayne Kelli is country-folk but evoking a morsel of nostalgia since it’s rooted in the style of a bygone era.

They do add a generous amount of originality to this self-produced set. Like 99% of all the recent releases I’ve received the sessions were fraught with challenges too numerous to mention. However, the end result was these fine songs. Sometimes hardship is the inspiration & when it does have an upside it’s worth noting & being somewhat thankful for.

Swearingen & Kelli

The contrast between their voices has flair, a pastel mix of tonality & expressionism. “The River,” is a sleek tune with well-navigated instruments that hover over the melody like a mist. If it isn’t nostalgic from a retro memory, it has a tremulous quality much the same as some songs by The Sons of the Never Wrong, where a similar musical feel is evident. There isn’t anything “oldie” here, or retro. It’s just a feeling that will penetrate the soul. Nostalgia is something an 80-year-old can experience & so can a 25-year-old.

Build Myself Up From the Ground (Drops Oct 27-Gone Rogue) has creativity even with its standard approaches. It has a faithful impulse. Gathered together they provide a sensitive walk down memory lane some of us are treading in the present & don’t even know it.

Both Swearingen (dobro/acoustic guitar/bass/drums/vocals) & Kelli (piano/vocals) sing effectively together & solo. But when they do sing together their voices in unison are like one. The title song “Build Me Up From the Ground,” comes in equal measure. This is a fine example of a simple song constructed so well it deserves repeated listens.

With the Kristofferson cover & the exceptional “This Old House,” the duo sounds as good as John Prine with Bonnie Raitt on “Angel From Montgomery.” It’s an earthy blend of instrumentation & mature songwriting. The Kristofferson tune is an honestly good, well-chosen cover.

This is an excellent pairing. Their voices are how watercolors run together to create an unexpected new hue. Lovely stuff. It’s a short CD & basically, every tune is worth a listen.

Highlights – “The River,” “Build Me Up From the Ground,” “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”), the beautiful “Goodbye” & “This Old House.”

Musicians – Mark Huhta (pedal steel guitar), David G. Henry (string arrangements) & Gary Scott (drums).

B&W image courtesy of their website. The 21-minute CD @ https://www.swearingenandkelli.com/copy-of-home-1

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