The Swigs' impressive 2010 debut, Let It Come Down, boasted virtuoso playing, well-crafted tunes and a driving energy. But the Tucson rock trio has topped that record by going epic with this audacious sophomore release.
Produced by guitarist-singer-songwriter Kevin Henderson and engineer extraordinaire Nathan Sabatino at Loveland Studio, Johnson Family Values was recorded in analog, giving it a rich, warm and immediate sound. On most of the tunes, Henderson accomplishes the estimable task of creating a unique guitar sound: His nimble leads hint at what Chet Atkins or Sandy Bull might have sounded like playing with Mountain or Thin Lizzy. Dynamic support for such six-string excursions is essential, and Henderson gets it from bassist Eric Snyder and drummer Mike Troupe.
Originals such as "Transmissions," "Raw Little Animal" and the extended shredding of the instrumental "Wasted Waitress Waltz" are infused with a DIY punk momentum, classic-rock melodies and tight grooves.
Also earning respect here are The Swigs' interpretations of obscure material by classic artists. The band brings shambling garage-glam charm to David Bowie's "Let Me Sleep Beside You," with fierce electric violin by Vicki Brown, and the Rolling Stones' "Downtown Lucy," with sassy backing vocals by the Silver Thread Trio. And the Bee Gees' 1997 single "Alone" gets a radical overhaul and becomes an utterly beguiling example of guitar-based power-pop.