(2014, Royal Potato Music)
No, keyboardist Marco Benevento's latest offering is not titled after ubiquitous and infectious country pop diva Taylor Swift, but after producer Richard Swift (no relation), who does double duty as a backup vocalist on this eclectic release. Multi-instrumentalist Swift brings considerable indie-rock credibility to this project, having worked with Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Sean Lennon, Ryan Adams, and the Black Keys. Benevento has been rewarding listeners since the late 1990s with his unique brand of experimental jazz. He's sharpened his teeth by playing alongside heavyweights like keyboardists Brad Mehldau and John Medeski, and drummer Joe Russo, with whom Benevento often works as a duo.
For Swift, the always adventurous Benevento takes another bold step by singing lead vocals for the first time. His voice has an appealing regular-guy quality that lends accessibility to the proceedings. Benevento is joined by bassist Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) and drummer Andy Borger, along with the titular Swift and Rosie Kirincic on backup vox. All of the components add up to an exceptional indie-rock outing in the vein of Wilco, Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes, or My Morning Jacket. Both the lead track, "At the Show," and the standout "Witches of Ulster" distinguish this jazz-influenced effort. The songs are well written and brilliantly executed. The hazy atmosphere adds a touch of psychedelia to the proceedings. For listeners interested in the direction of modern rock, Swift is a worthy listen. Marcobenevento.com.