Sometimes all you need is some good old-fashioned blues to pull you out of a funk. After nearly 50 years making music under the pseudonym Swamp Dogg, Jerry Williams Jr. returns with what feels like his millionth album Sorry You Couldn’t Make It. The album is a mix of blues, soul, and R&B that hits all the right notes. And at 77 years old, he really knows how to do it.
Making your music relevant to a new audience is a problem as old as time, and Swamp Dogg has it figured out. He opens the album with “Sleeping Without You Is A Dragg” (feat. Justin Vernon, Jenny Lewis). Belting in with some blues organ and a lulling piano beat, this track sets the tone for the album as a whole. He speaks of weariness and loneliness, some might say the staple of any blues music diet. The added horn section takes it from a run of the mill blues track to something that transcends the ether. It’s like some sort of revelation and with Justin Vernon (yes, that Justin Vernon) and Jenny Lewis, sitting in the musical sphere quietly, observing what’s going on around it. It’s not exactly the best track on the album, but, and this might sound crazy, it sounds wise, knowledge and patient, and roots its listener’s attention for the rest of the album.
Swamp Dogg has written songs about everything from politics to inequality, but for “Good, Better, Best,” he has returned to the tried and tested subject matter of love and women. There is nothing too special about this track, and maybe that’s why it works. He uses a funky and clear guitar strum to drag us through and a wicked key change that is as music a feature of soul music as it is an instrument to get you moving.
“Please Let Me Go Round Again” changes the pace somewhat. Swamp Dogg’s voice raw and slightly husky while the guitar wails in the background. And all for good reason. This track is all about second chances and asking for another chance at a new life, to rectify the mistakes he has made. It may seem like a simple song, but the real beauty of this track is Swamp Dogg’s sorrowful voice that adds a sense of humanity to the track, showing his range as both a musician and a lyricist.
50 years is a long time to be making music, and you would think that inspiration would be hard to come by, but Swamp Dogg has it all figured out. While he sticks with reliable blues and R&B beats and melodies, his music doesn’t sound old fashioned. It revives the blues tradition brilliantly and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.