Stacy Swinford is one of those indie artists that needs to be heard on a national level. She also needs to be standing on the stage at the annual Americana Music Awards. This is the kind of album that needs a statue awarded to the album, the songwriter, the engineer, the arranger and the album cover picture.
I have had Lady Avalon for quite a while now and have had it on my list to review since then. I needed the time to fully sit with the album and give my thoughts and feeling about this masterpiece. I know I've written some other album reviews that have come out since this one, but this one needed my full attention of time to sit and kind of "meditate" with each track to give you my take on it.
From the very first time I heard the opening notes I felt like a movie screen opened in front of me and stories were being played on the screen in full vivid color. Not many artists can pull this off naturally and not many have the talent for it. Stacy's voice is silky smooth and natural, with perfect vocal control and a very hypnotic and soulful quality that carries you from chapter to chapter in the tales that she spins.
Every song on this release emits a magical tone. The layers are perfectly done. The arrangements are just amazing. This is how an album should be recorded and performed. Each piece has its place and is not over powering. Each instrument plays off the other. When I hear something like this, it's not about the ego, it's about the joy of music and the telling of a tale.
The album is produced by her extremely talented husband, Steven Swinford. Steven also plays Acoustic, Electric and Nylon Guitars along with Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, Steel Guitar, Mandolin, Dobro and Backing Vocals. That just blows me away. Other great musicians on this album are:
Zoe Kohen Lee plays Cello
Laraine Kaiser Viazovstev plays Violin and Viola
Nina DeGregoria plays Violin
Mike Zrebe plays Drums
Jake Cox plays Piano and did the String Arrangements for "Jupiter", "Lady Avalon" and "Amanda"
All of the songs were written by Stacy except "Child of Steel" written by Rosanne Cash and "Wistful" written by Steven Swinford.
So come take a journey with me through the album of Lady Avalon, which can be purchased via stacyswinford.com along with other excellent music. The album is also available on Amazon and iTunes, just click on the links.
- Wistful - This soulful opening sets the mood for the album. Sometimes instrumental songs starting off an album do not fit the rest of the songs on the album, but this one does. Beautiful guitar playing with an absolutely haunting melody, just takes you back to a Medieval setting.
- Lady Avalon - Title track and one of my favorites on the album. Stacy takes a spin on what should be the soundtrack to The Mists of Avalon. The drums set the tone for the story when they come in after the beautiful opening. This has a cool Celtic feel throughout the whole song. In the break coming back into the last chorus the strings give me shivers (in a good way) and the ending is beautiful. I can't say enough about the beauty and smooth quality of Stacy's voice. It's very hypnotic.
- Love is Magic - I love the harmonies on this song in the chorus. The hook is there and the lyrics are very cool. The little guitar solos throughout the song are just freaking awesome. The message is clear when you listen to the song. Love, magic, Illusions, smoke and mirrors says it all on a deep level.
- Marionette - A haunting little piano at the beginning for a hauntingly beautiful song. This is another one of my favorites on the album. I love how this song builds over its 3 minutes and 41 seconds. The harmonies layer, the piano comes in more and more and the story seems to get a little sadder but still beautiful.
- Amanda - Simple and beautiful song with a powerful message. "The sun will shine, the rain will fall, the days go by, and we won't change it at all." the messages in these stories are wonderful.
- Wellington Brakeman - Storytelling at its best! Based on a true story. I love the feeling of this song. The driving guitar each time it comes in adds power to the story as it builds.
- Jupiter - A song about Stacy's hometown and the need to go back home again. This is my favorite track of the album. It really is hard to pick an overall favorite, but this has been mine. I also consider this a homecoming winter holiday song. So it gets played a lot around the Christmas holiday season on my show and around the house. It just has that warm "getting back together with everyone" feeling to it and the longing that we all have for home at certain times in our life. More beautifully arranged strings here as well. You can see why I really enjoy Stacy's storytelling.
- Castaway - this is a hidden little gem on the album. I'll let the lyrics speak for themselves. Love the strings on this song. I love the line "In this moment I have, found myself and I am, someone else, without you." I love it when someone finds the power to move on after being castaway. It’s a great end to the song.
- Your Indifference - Another favorite song on the album. "Your lack of action speaks so loud and clear." Kind of says it all. Love the mandolin strumming away in the background and then the banjo comes in and kicks it with the piano and drums. When the beat picks up in the middle of the song, you just start singing along, whether you know the lyrics or not. When Steven kicks in with the lead guitar part, my head is bobbin (well I can't say banging, because it's not that kind of song). This has a powerhouse ending for sure.
- Luanne - When I first heard this tune, I saw the tribute video that Stacy had done. I was like…whoa! I know her! I've always been a big fan of Luanne Oakes and her teachings. I had no idea that Steven had recorded her programs that I listened to. I also had no idea that she had passed away. They were really close to her and this song is a beautiful tribute to their friendship with her. This is another favorite tune on the album. It always seems to bring a tear to my eyes when I listen to it and as I write this. Beautifully written and sung. A true tribute to her teachings.
- Child of Steel - Not much to say about this song, other than a stellar performance of a Rosanne Cash song. I love the arrangement here. All of the beautiful instrument layers going on are very touching.
- Out of Our Hands - God, I love the lyrics to this song. Another favorite. This is very deep philosophically. The chorus is just perfect. "The wind brought you back home again." Everyone will have their own interpretation here, but I think I "get it". The sense of someone being there after they are gone form this plane of existence. Stacy can correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's what I'm feeling.
- Reprise - A nice instrumental end that has such rich bluegrass feel to it that covers the main themes of the album. Sits beautifully poised to conclude this album.
Stacy's written newer singles that are out on her site as well. Check them out. You won't be disappointed. Stop by Independent Share, starting the 4th of July 2016 at 8 PM Eastern Time on Show number 116, as I start rotation on this great album once again and as I do a segment I have not done in a while called Artist Spotlight where I spotlight the artist and at least three of their songs. I hope that you'll join me for this.
Here is a video for the title track "Lady Avalon":