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John Swenson

John Swenson is the author of fourteen books, including NEW ATLANTIS: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans. He has been writing about music since 1967.

Articles by John Swenson

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They All Played for Us

This is a collection that celebrates American storytellers, guardians of their ethnic traditions that range from blues to Cajun to Mexican corridos, traditional New Orleans jazz, Dixieland, jug band music, sacred steel, and 1960s folk and protest music. Somehow it all hangs together, one big story about North and Central America and its people.
Department: Interviews
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SKYDOG SERENADE

There I was, combing through unmarked boxes of 45s at Euclid Records in New Orleans, when I came across a pristine 1968 Arthur Conley single on Atco: “Otis Sleep On” appears on one side and is backed by a cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” Producer Tom Dowd, who cut it at Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, slowed down the groove from the Beatles original to a ska pulse built around David Hood’s bass line. When Conley hits the bridge, an amazing ten-note guitar lick reimagines the melody with an against-the-grain rhythmic twist, almost as if Thelonious Monk were interpreting the figure.
Department: Reviews
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