Swamp Dogg: Rat On!

SwampDogg_RatOnSecond helping of outspoken, deep Southern soul

Swamp Dogg’s newly penned liner notes tell the story of this album’s original sessions (under the title of “Right On”) at Florida’s TK Studios, with a backing band that included Betty Wright, Lonnie Mack, Al Kooper and a label worker (and future disco star) named Harry Wayne “KC” Casey. Apparently the results sounded awesome to the alcohol- and herb-fueled participants, but were not so easy on the ears of anyone else. The resulting tapes were shelved (though a single of the original “Straight From My Heart” was released with a B-side cover of Joe South’s “Don’t Throw Your Love to the Wind”), and a second run at the album was made at Quinvy Studios in Muscle Shoals. The latter sessions were released on Elektra in 1971 as Rat On! The Quinvy crew featured several legendary musicians, including bassist Robert Lee “Pops” Popwell and guitarist Jesse Willard “Pete” Carr, and Swamp Dogg’s soul sound, much like that on his debut, gave the players solid grooves to explore. His songs continued to mix outspoken views on race, sex, religion, war, relationships and social issues, couched in melodies whose sweetness sometimes obscures the deep twists and turns of his lyrics. Listened to in passing, Rat On! offers top-flight ‘70s southern soul, with deep bass and punchy horns. But listened to more carefully, the album reveals a daring songwriter who wasn’t afraid to tell it as he saw it, challenging society’s icons of freedom with “God Bless America For What?” and landing himself on Nixon’s enemies list. The album features soulful reworkings of the Bee Gees’ “Got to Get a Message to You” and Mickey Newbury’s “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,” and though the original tunes aren’t nearly as absurd those on Total Destruction to Your Mind, their messages are just as powerful, and their grooves are just as deep. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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