Album Review: Don't Blame the Stars by The Black Swans
Great, Based on 4 Critics
Paste Magazine - 84 Based on rating 8.4/10
The Black Swans have never been afraid to let their freak flag fly, standing in a long line of country and folk eccentrics like Lee Hazlewood, Iris DeMent and Merle Haggard (two of whom get shout-outs on this album). For more contemporary counterparts, you could look to Lambchop, Richard Buckner or Will Oldham, perhaps, but the the polarizing, hoarse-whisperer voice of The Black Swans’ Jerry DeCicca has no obvious analog. The band’s last album, Words are Stupid, found DeCicca substituting animal sounds—rooster crows, monkey screeches—for words.
“He’s a beautiful man, and he’s here to help us,” Black Swans singer Jerry DeCicca says in the spoken introduction to “Joe Tex”, a song about the 1960s R&B singer and, perhaps more so, about the way hearing a singer sing about life’s struggles can make a listener feel better able to deal with their own. Similar references to singer are scattered across the Ohio band’s fourth LP. While on an existential road trip (“I Forgot to Change the Windshield Wipers in My Mind”), DeCicca gets comfort from the radio and testifies back to it: “A change is gonna come soon / Sam Cooke, you’re always right.
The Black Swans' violinist Noel Sayre died in a swimming accident in July of 2008, three months after his band had gathered in an Ohio garage to begin recording their new LP, Don't Blame the Stars. The group set aside the unfinished Stars sessions in the wake of Sayre's passing, putting together last year's limited-edition Words Are Stupid before returning to the project. Which makes sense, as hearing Sayre's mournful bow work while still grieving for the man himself might've been too much, too soon.
Ohio's Black Swans have come a long way since their 2004 debut Who Will Walk in the Darkness with You? They've undergone personnel changes, released two other albums, and endured more than their fair share of tragedy. The biggest of the latter occurred on July 1, 2008 when violinist Noel Sayre, the anchor in songwriter Jerry DeCicca's ever evolving soundworld, died in a swimming accident. Though they released Words Are Stupid on St.