Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs
Second single "Then There Were Three"
Animation by Kurt Swinghammer
First single "Strange is This Life"
Video by Kevin Lacroix
It’s a special opportunity when an artist has an entire album written for them. The words, melodies, and jazz-informed chamber pop arrangements of Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs were all specifically created for the distinctive voice of Lori.
After taking a few years off music to raise the child she & Kurt Swinghammer were blessed with, close friend Ron Sexsmith suggested to Kurt that they co-write material to entice Lori back into the studio. In the tradition of the Bacharach and David model, the roll of writing lyrics and music was clearly divided. Sexsmith brought his brilliant ability to personalize universal themes while using common vernacular and applied it to the unpredictable harmonic and rhythmic structures of Swinghammer’s artful tunes. The result is a strikingly original, cohesive body of work that has nothing in common with current trends.
The musical concept was to build upon the over-all aesthetic of Cullen’s significant body of work while aspiring to evoke the craftsmanship of some of pop’s iconic composers. Bacharach, Webb and Paul Williams were conscious inspirations, as was the bossa inventiveness of Jobim. Players on the sessions dropped names like Wayne Shorter, Steely Dan and Laura Nyro when discussing the colourful and complex chord changes, asymmetrical time signatures, and near extinct compositional devices such as bridges and modulations notated on their charts. There was no intention to sound overtly retro however, and often elements were intentionally added to contradict any tendency to conform to an era or genre.
The biographical nature of many of the lyrics is thinly veiled. Most are poetic observations of Lori and Kurt’s life together with their young son. A special and apparently convincing moment on the album is the romantic ballad Off Somewhere, which features Ron singing a duet with Lori. When Lori’s three year old first heard it he asked “are they hugging?”.
The album was recorded at Toronto’s Canterbury Sound by veteran engineer Jeremy Darby and produced by long time trusted friend Maury Lafoy, who also played bass along with the core band of drummer Mark Mariash, keyboardist Robbie Grunwald, and guitarist Swinghammer. Centered around nylon string and Rhodes, the skillfully constructed arrangements sparkle with trumpet, trombone, oboe, clarinet, recorder, and harmonica. Backing vocalists Mia Sheard and Jennifer Foster add a signature sound throughout the songs with intricately layered counterpoint parts. With his celebrated experience and sonic sensitivity, David Travers-Smith created the exquisite mix and master.
Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs is Lori Cullen’s seventh album. A rewarding collaboration between close friends has resulted in a beautifully presented collection of new material. For Lori’s fans, it will be a welcome addition to their collection, and for others it will be that exciting moment of discovering a brilliant new voice.