Beneath the Surface #2: A weekly look at lesser-known and unsigned Minnesota bands

Hello everyone and welcome to the second edition of Beneath the Surface! This week features the dark, mature Americana of Swallows and jazz/bluegrass vocalist Sarah Morris. Both are performing at this weekends Stone Arch Bridge Festival that we’re excited to be covering. Holla.

Although it’d be more fitting for Swallows to play at midnight at a graveyard, I’m still excited to see them Saturday afternoon at Stone Arch. Their atmospheric Americana sound is spooky and endearing. It’s for good reason that their last album, 2012’s Witching and Divining, has gotten so much positive press around the Twin Cities and has gotten play on college radio stations around the country.

Their first record, Songs for Strippers, is a lot more serious sounding than the name might suggest. “Come to Me,” a sparse, atmospheric track, is an interesting opening number. They follow that up with “Eventide,” a slow, brooding song that is probably my favorite of theirs. The rest of the record isn’t quite as dark. “The Craven King” is Velvet Underground via Them’s “Gloria.” “Kerouac” is a fun Camper Van Beethoven/Ike Reilly type thing with cool lyrics (“I don’t want to be a Jack Kerouac/expending all my energy and return it right back/to where I began”).

Songs for Strippers is solid but Witching and Divining is Swallow’s major statement. The entire album has a feel that is hard to describe but is something like walking through an abandoned old west town on a warm, windy autumn night. It’s certainly “back to the soil.” The atmospherics, including subtle mandolin, accordion, and especially cello, give Witching and Divining a mature, classic sound. Highlights: “Long Long Shadow,” “Rattle Them Bones,” “High Water.”

Swallows are playing the Stone Arch Bridge Festival on Saturday at 2:15 on the Father Hennepin Park Stage. Check out their website, hear/purchase their music, or follow them on Twitter.

Standout tracks: Eventide, Long Long Shadow, Come to Me

Erik Ritland, Minneapolis, MN

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