White Swan is a beautifully made folk album that is a memory jolt back to the best of the ‘60s. Susie Glaze has a clear accurate and silky voice which can handle all the variety of material the album features. Mandolin/bouzouki/guitar player Steve Rankin takes lead vocal on Steve Earle’s Me and the Eagle while my favourite song on the album is Fred Sanders’ lead on his own Rockin’ in Your Grandaddy’s Chair, a song you can imagine Merle Haggard or George Strait covering if they heard it.
The album opens with James Taylor’s Mill Worker in a version not a million miles from Emmylou Harris’ cover of the song on her Evangeline album (an album not available on CD) except this starts with a well played version of Si Bheag, Si Mhor. I’m not quite sure why this was done as for me it just doesn’t work – two great tunes which each deserve their own separate version.
Guitarist Rob Carlson contributes 4 songs, three of which are co-writes with other band members and the best of which is the charming Little Rabbit. Ernest Troost contributes two, Evangeline and Harlan County Boys a subject already mined by Darrell Scott. Fair Ellender is a version of Child Ballad #73 which seems to be a favourite in California folk/roots/bluegrass as it has been widely covered, by Jerry Garcia amongst others. It also has, for me the only production mistake with a ludicrous amount of reverb on Glaze’s lovely acapella opening vocal.
The only other real criticism is the title song, an overlong cod Child ballad that did nothing for me and I am a lover of tragic songs. Otherwise the album is well made, beautifully played and sung and has a most handsome cover from one of my heroes from the Arts and Crafts movement, children’s book illustrator Walter Crane.
As an aside, I bet these guys are dynamite live so let us hope they tour over here.