Oliver Swain has been a celebrated musician for years, held in high regard in acoustic and folk music styles for his instrumental and vocal abilities, though he seldom gives the genre a fully traditional treatment. He strays towards the whimsical, the spiritual and the socially conscious side of what he likes to refer to as “chamber folk odyssey”, and it’s these beguiling and provocative elements that make him unique as an artist and songwriter.
Swain plays Friday at the Gray Creek Hall and Sunday at A Break in Time Caffé, offering songs from his new album, Never More Together, a rich and sublime example of Swain’s personal obsessions: clawhammer banjo, bowed bass and slack key guitar style. Modern rock and early R&B are curated within the traditionally based songs, used as springboard into the imagination.
The title track is a modern spiritual, the tongue-in-cheek romp of “Maggie, Molly and Raul” unfolds into indie rock territory, and the crowd-favorite “Take Me Up” is an opus of universal proportions. From the grinding desire of “Apple Sucklin’ Tree” to the soulful “No Strange Thing”, Never More Together is an adventurous listen.
Swain got his start performing and writing with many of the U.S. and Canada’s most loved roots bands including the Bills, the Duhks, Outlaw Social and The Red Stick Ramblers. He’s a two time Western Canadian Music Award winner and a Juno nominee, with a few M (Monday Magazine) and Times Colonist Music Awards under his belt.
Between his own shows and tours, Swain also runs the Victoria Django Festival each February in his home city, and recently toured as one half the Leonard Cohen tribute duo project Tower of Song, as well as playing bass and some vocals with his new rock band, Fans & Motor Supply Co.
Swain’s April 22 Gray Creek concert starts at 8 p.m. and his April 24 concert starts at 7:30. Admission is $12 at the door.