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Swamp Dogg | Sorry You Couldn’t Make It

The idiosyncratic cult hero goes country — sort of — on his 23rd skewed release.

WHO IS HE? The singer-songwriter and cult hero born Jerry Williams Jr. 77 years ago. The man who composed hits for the likes of Gene Pitney, Gary U.S. Bonds, Irma Thomas and even Johnny Paycheck. The artist who launched his solo career half a century ago with the swamp-funk masterpiece Total Destruction To Your Mind, followed by gems like Rat On! (whose cover depicts him astride a giant white rodent), Gag A Maggott and The White Man Made Me Do It.

WHAT IS THIS? His 23rd studio album and the followup to his acclaimed (and fittingly titled) 2018 hit Love, Loss and Auto-Tune, which introduced him to a whole new legion of fans.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Nothing like LL&A. But not quite as advertised, either. Williams has said Sorry You Couldn’t Make It is his country album. But even though it was recorded in Nashville with session players — plus guests like Justin Vernon, John Prine and Jenny Lewis — and features some tinkly pianos, twangy guitars and shimmery pedal steel, these confessional tales of romantic yearning hew closer to country-soul and gospel than honky-tonk.

WHAT ARE THE MOST REVEALING LYRICS? “A good song has universal appeal / It’ll make you laugh, make you cry, it has something everybody can feel.”

WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Love, Loss and No Auto-Tune.

WHEN SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? On those nights when you’re sleeping single in a double bed, counting flowers on the wall.

WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Romantic, warm, idiosyncratic, smooth, classy, lush, supple, plaintive, earnest, welcoming.

WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? Funkier fare like Good, Better, Best and Family Pain are go-to cuts, but don’t miss the nostalgic John Prine duet Memories and the gorgeous opener Sleeping Without You Is A Dragg (featuring Vernon and Lewis).

WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘It may not be traditional country, but it still sounds better than most of the so-called country music on the air right now.’

HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? It does down smooth enough — and has enough hooks — to bring you back for more.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A MEAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Fried chicken and waffles.

SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? You won’t be sorry if you make it a purchase.