Swamp Dogg

The White Man Made Me Do It

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Legendary eccentric soul man Swamp Dogg (aka Jerry Williams Jr.) has been celebrated as the inspired lunatic of old-school R&B ever since he unveiled his persona on the 1970 classic Total Destruction to Your Mind, but with the passage of time, the Dogg actually sounds saner than the average man in the 21st century, even though he's as bold and outspoken as ever. The White Man Made Me Do It is full of Swamp Dogg's thoughts on race, which is fitting for an album that was recorded in 2014, a year that saw the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner bring a new urgency to America's discussion of the uneasy relationship between African-Americans, whites, and state power; while Swamp Dogg never mentions either case in his lyrics, he has plenty to say about the pros and cons of being black in America. The title tune is a proud recounting of what people brought to the United States in chains went on to do for the nation, and why many are still waiting for their due reward. "Prejudice Is Alive and Well" dismisses the notion that we live in a post-racial culture, especially in the United States, "Where Is Sly" bemoans the decline of a man who brought plenty of truth (and great grooves) to the radio, and "If That Ain't the Blues, Nothing Is" takes aim at voter suppression, economic equality, and Republican congressmen trying to bring down the Affordable Care Act. At his best, Swamp Dogg sounds like the well-read guy at the bar who has plenty to say after his fifth beer, and his songs hit a fine middle ground between clever political commentary and streetside mess-taking, and that's just what he delivers on The White Man Made Me Do It's political numbers. Most of the rest of the album is devoted to covers of classic R&B oldies (including "You Send Me" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe") and tunes that evoke the era of classic soul ("Let Me Be Wrong" and "What Lonesome Is") that show the Dogg in fine voice, and though Williams was using synthesizers to construct his albums in the '80s and '90s, this set is full of real horn and guitars that make the music sound rich, expressive, and timeless (yes, there's a clanky drum machine, but that's forgivable in context). If the white man really did make Swamp Dogg record this album, than we really do have a reason to be grateful for whitey after all.

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