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Albums Of The Week: Swamp Dogg | Blackgrass: From West Virginia to 125th St

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Not a lot of people talk about the true origins of bluegrass music, but it came from Black people,” Swamp Dogg says. “The banjo, the washtub, all that stuff started with African Americans. We were playing it before it even had a name. I’m trying to touch on every kind of music I grew up loving and listening to. This is my way of letting people know that I’m not just a soul singer or whatever they think I am. I’m so much more.”

Blackgrass, Swamp Dogg’s remarkable 2024 album, is no history lesson, though. Produced by Ryan Olson (Bon Iver, Poliça) and recorded with an all-star band including Noam Pikelny, Sierra Hull, Jerry Douglas, Chris Scruggs, Billy Contreras and Kenny Vaughan, the collection is a riotous blend of past and present, mixing the sacred and the profane in typical Swamp Dogg fashion as it blurs the lines between folk, roots, country, blues, and soul.

The tracklist is an eclectic one — brand-new originals and vintage Swamp Dogg classics sit side by side with reimaginings of ’70s R&B hits and timeless ’50s pop tunes — but the performances are thoroughly cohesive, filtering everything through a progressive Appalachian lens that nods to tradition without ever being bound by it. Special guests like Margo Price, Jenny Lewis, Justin Vernon and The Cactus Blossoms all add to the excitement here, but it’s ultimately the 81-year-old Swamp Dogg’s delivery — sly and playful and full of genuine joy and ache — that steals the show. The result is a record that’s as reverent as it is raunchy, a collection that challenges conventional notions of genre and race while at the same time celebrating the music that helped make Swamp Dogg the beloved iconoclast he’s known as today.”