An accomplished guitarist, Jon Goddard doesn't rely on fireworks to impress. Instead, he crafts seductive songs drawing on both folk and blues. The music shifts from the rawness of Tom Waits to the more polished (some would say pretentious) aesthetic of English singer/songwriters (John Martyn, Richard Thompson), even extending to a Fairport Convention-type campfire folk song for "Ash." Goddard handles most instruments on Swell, including all kinds of acoustic and electric guitars, electric piano, bass, and programmed percussion. Roger Eno appears on piano and banjo, and Patrick Arbuthnot contributes some colorful dobro on "The Big Field." The instrumental tunes (five out of 11) tend to be bluesier than the songs, but both categories yield highlights. The strength of the songs resides in Rob Spendlove's vocal delivery, warm and soulful, especially in "The Big Field," a very nice pastoral ditty, and "Idiot Kid," a Tom Waits pastiche. On first listen, the album sounds somewhat understated, but additional spins reveal a desire to let the writing speak for itself, without flashy solos. It works nicely for a cloudy Sunday afternoon.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: J.R. Goddard