Louisiana is all about food and music, sporting New Orleans jazz, zydeco, and Cajun music. But another indigenous style combines R&B, country, and rock and roll. It’s called swamp pop, and Tommy McLain is one of its deacons.
The 82-year-old songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is best known for his 1966 cover of “Sweet Dreams,” the Patsy Cline hit. For the balladeer’s first album since the ’70s, Elvis Costello co-wrote two tunes and sang on the title track, while McLain co-wrote another with Nick Lowe. Also, the old-timey “California” was written by Van Dyke Parks, who supplies piano and accordion.
With native son C.C. Adcock producing, co-writing, and handling most guitar parts, the project is in capable hands. Though the big news is the star turns, the special sauce comes from three of Adcock’s Lil’ Band Of Gold cohorts – bassist Dave Ranson, drummer Warren Storm, and accordionist Steve Riley.
Adcock and engineer Mike Napolitano add layers for texture (check the former’s tremolo guitar and baritone solo on “No Tomorrow Now”), while somehow retaining a spare feel, spotlighting the melodies, lyrics, and McLain’s now-raspy voice. For a swamp pop introduction, look no farther than Tommy’s cover of Bobby Charles’ “Before I Grow Too Old.”
This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.