Roots - Blues - Alt-country    "For your inner hillbilly"

Reviews of our  'Homeward Dove' CD (2014)

Brisbane Folk History Project
Alison MacKenzie, Vice President, May 22, 2015

CD Review
Homeward Dove - Swampfish
Reviewed by Alison MacKenzie

If the idea of an acoustic Blues-Roots album featuring Autoharp and Banjo has previously scared your musical sensibilities, then you will have to trust me here! There is absolutely nothing twee about this album. Fourteen tracks, nine of them excellent originals, gently draw you in to a private musical parlour. These musicians use space and pace so effectively that you are on their unrushed journey and feeling good before you even know it.
 
Swampfish are Kim Downs and Liz Hall-Downs, a Brisbane based duo and Homeward Dove is their first album of this collaboration (the duo have a long history of artistic ventures). The album was created using the crowdfunding platform Pozible – Arts funding by the people for the people.
 
I found the contrast between the duo’s name and the name of the album intriguing; the deep, dark and watery juxtaposed with the high, light, flight of a bird. It turns out the imagery is apt and a perfect analogy for all the contrasts in the album; both in song selection and vocal styles. There is a bit of everything here. Stand out tracks for me are all written by Kim Downs. Thinking Small, already a favourite around the festival circuit is a gentle reminder not to take ourselves so seriously; to stop and savour the small and delightful things in life. The song features warm tenor vocals (Downs) and is also an excellent example of just how this band manages to combine the musical accompaniment (Banjo, Autoharp, Ukulele) so sympathetically.   All on My Own again showcases the duo’s vocal and musical harmonies and includes cheeky lines such as can’t wait to get you back in my bed. Another favourite, Greenbank Stomp, unexpectedly switches time signatures but would lose everything without doing so.
 
Covers include a bold Dance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen). Hall-Downs pulls it off magically. Her deep, resonating vocals own the tune. Double bass (George Valenti) and Percussion (Ian Hall) both shine and tastefully support the classy rendition. In Randy Newman’s Guilty Hall-Downs puts every bit of drunken, sad regret into the vocal lament and the tune is ably complemented by Blues Slide Guitar (Downs). There are also two Gospel numbers. I particularly like Who Will Sing for Me? (John Thomas Ely). The harmony (Hall-Downs) demonstrates her vocal range and the accompanying Accordion has a fitting, church-like seriousness (Gary Nunn).
 
Swampfish are excellent musicians who have perfected the art of musical story telling by keeping their formula simple; take a good song, create beautiful harmonies and add the right instrumental accompaniment. The instrumentation on the album is eclectic and quirky. There are no less than nine different instruments on this recording! Musicians are Downs (Vocals, Guitars, Banjo, Trombone) Hall-Downs (Vocals, Autoharp, Maracas) Hall (Percussion), Valenti (Double bass, Accordion, Ukulele), Nunn (Accordion track 14) and, Wayburn Downs (drinking song yahoos and glass clinks). The album was recorded, mixed and mastered with clear, authentic acoustic sound by Josh Ingram and produced by Ingram and Downs.
 
You can hear Swampfish play at local venues, folk clubs and festivals. See their website http://www.swampfish2.com  and facebook page http://www.facebook.com/swampfish for more up-to-date gig information.
 
The Folk Rag
Anne Infante, June 04, 2015

CD Review by Anne Infante
Homeward Dove by Swampfish
Swampfish are the talented duo of Kim Downs and Liz Hall-Downs. Their crowd-funded album Homeward Dove has been a long time in the making but thankfully has finally seen the light of day, bringing with it a joyful and completely satisfying listening experience of sweet sounds, lovely heart-stirring harmonies and a collection of excellent songs.
Kim and Liz bring their own special magic to fourteen well-chosen tracks. Nine are originals by Kim, an exceptional songwriter who combines interesting, quirky and compelling imagery (‘feel as comfy as a dog in a tree’!) with melodious tunes that slide into unexpected chord progressions.
 
The album is beautifully crafted.  Nothing jars, from the slow, lazy and strongly hypnotic Fantasy Life (Kim Downs) and Dance Me To The End Of Love (Leonard Cohen) to the upbeat Going Nowhere Fast and Greenbank Stomp, both by Kim. It’s old timey, jazzy, bluesy, alt-country, with some wondrous gospel overtones in Your Long Journey (Arthel ‘Doc’ Watson and Rosa Lee-Watson) and Who Will Sing For Me? (John Thomas Ely).
 
The musicians are Kim Downs (vocals, guitars, banjo, trombone); Liz Hall-Downs (vocals, autoharp, maracas);  Ian Hall (percussion); George Valenti (double bass, accordion, ukulele) and Gary Nunn (accordion) with some side ‘yahoos’, ‘yee-haars’ and glass clinks from Wayburn Downs. The album was produced by Josh Ingram and Kim Downs with photos and artwork by Kim, Lee Mansfield and Ria Willering.
 
This is an outstanding collaboration by Swampfish and their friends and family and well worth the listening ... not just once, but many times over. 
 
My favourite track? Well, I like them all, but Kim’s Thinking Small really speaks to me ... possibly because of the fuzzy little ducks! Irresistible!
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