IRISH BAND Swainn Releases Third Studio Album
When you think of Irish rock bands, you generally think of U2 or The Pogues. Now, when you think of American-Irish rock bands, you generally think of Dropkick Murphys, Boston, and St. Paddy’s Day. There’s a lot to love about America’s take on the Irish music industry, but there’s a very specific idea most will have in mind when they conjure up an idea of the Irish rock sound. One of the last things you’d probably think of is Phoenix, Arizona, which just so happens to be where American rock ensemble Swainn (also known as Cockswain) hail from. Desert imagery isn’t a go-to picture for the instruments and sounds contained on their albums, but the act of bringing in something unique through the use of their Arizona upbringing and birthplace as a band allows Swainn to explore some different textures within an already established genre.
Swainn’s latest album, Under A Willow Tree, does a lot of heavy lifting as it plays out not only as a testament to the strengths of Celtic influences in modern punk, but also manages to tie itself to the band’s Western sensibilities and allows the songs to feel at home in a pub as much as they would be at the scene of a cowboy standoff. The improbability of the two drastically different locals clicking as complementary pieces of a larger puzzle makes sense once the album begins, as it’s able to bring in a breath of fresh air without going to the well of influences too often and too obviously.
There are still the necessary components of the Irish rock album within Under A Willow Tree, with the album closer “Another Drinking Song” being a great addition to the chaotic pantheon of pub anthems, but there are also subverted expectations galore with “Bag O’ Bones” spawning from Ram Dass and his Buddhist teachings, of all places, and “In the Morning” working as a call to action in regards to mental health and awareness of depression concerning the “live fast, die-hard” mentality most people champion. There’s a distinct relatability within this album that some Celtic-inspired releases will find themselves lacking, and that is exactly what allows Swainn to gain the upper hand on the competition. Fun, punchy jaunts emphasized by fiddle can be fun, but if the lyrical meat isn’t there, the songs will only go so far. Rest assured, this isn’t something Swainn has to concern themselves with.
Under A Willow Tree makes an indelible mark on modern independent rock that will certainly cause waves among those keen enough to listen. Swainn has the talent and gusto to throw down a stellar album, with their musical prowess above most you’d hear on the radio at any given moment, and their growth from one album to the next only further predicts an incendiary trajectory. Of all places for a bold new voice and direction for Celtic punk to come from, Arizona was not on anyone’s Bingo card; that exact surprise is what makes Swainn so great: incredible results from something you could swear you’d seen all from.