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September 11th, 2013 JEFF ROSENBERG | Music Stories
 

Primer: Swamp Dogg

music_swampdogg_3945SWAMP DOGG - Image courtesy of Pavement PR
Born: Jerry Williams Jr. in Portsmouth, Va., in 1942.

Sounds like: A country-tinged, rock-informed soul shouter, wailing witty, dirty lyrics about conflicts between rich and poor, black and white, man and wife.

For fans of: Southern soul, Sly Stone, Frank Zappa, Blowfly.

Latest release: Three of the Dogg’s first four albums—Total Destruction to Your Mind, Rat On! and Gag a Maggot—have just been reissued. An album of new material is anticipated next year.

 

Why you care: A true independent, Swamp Dogg has been making funny, savvy and obscure R&B since 1970, his singular voice encompassing a piercing wail, the grit of the chitlin’ circuit and that gargle in the back of the throat that made MLK turn heads. At once self-effacing and self-aggrandizing, his album titles tell the story: I Called for a Rope and They Threw Me a Rock; I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In!, whose cover depicts the Dogg dancing in white tie and tails atop a boardroom table surrounded by nonplussed executives; and the quintessentially braggadocious If I Ever Kiss It…He Can Kiss It Goodbye! His way with a title extends to the songs themselves: political screeds, from 1971’s “God Bless America For What” to the 2007 anti-Bush blast “They Crowned an Idiot King”; racial explorations such as “I’ve Never Been to Africa (And It’s Your Fault)”; and countless meditations on marital infidelity, such as “Choking to Death (On the Ties That Bind)” and “Did I Come Back Too Soon (Or Stay Away Too Long).” And when he puts that unreal voice to another writer’s song, sparks fly, as on his damn near definitive reading of John Prine’s junkie-vet lament, “Sam Stone.”


SEE IT: Swamp Dogg plays Dante’s, 350 W Burnside St., on Saturday, Sept. 14. 9 pm. $15. 21+.

 
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