Friday, May 22, 2015

Indie-Americana Project, Seahorse Has Released The Fire’s Heart

Wine and Song maker, Rich Swanger contributes to the burgeoning Salem, Oregon music scene

“The salt wood burned orange and blue in the fire’s heart and he sat watching it a long time.”—Cormac McCarthy, The Road

How easy it is to get transfixed by the fire and by the thing fueling the fire. The songs on The Fire’s Heart feature a cast of characters carrying fires within them – jealousy, doubt, love, revenge, obsession, compassion, guilt. These fires sustain while also threatening to consume. These fires are their humanity …and ours as well.

The Willamette Valley is known for its wineries and Salem, Oregon serves as a hub for the area farming communities including wine. Lying along the I-5 corridor, it’s an hour away from the commanding city of Portland, but when it comes to music, Salem refuses to live in its shadow.

Seahorse is Rich Swanger, who is part of a large group of talented folks that create music in Salem, Oregon. He also happens to be the Assistant Winemaker at St. Innocent Winery. “Winemaking has informed my songwriting in many ways,” said Swanger, “It’s reminded me to be patient with my musical ideas, as it can often take a very long time for the true details of a song or wine to emerge.”

A fictional songwriter, Swanger’s lush and honeyed voice belie his fabled characters who usually end up wandering into darkness, despite their best intentions. “I’m not interested in the character that’s the bad guy for the sake of being the bad guy,“ said Swanger, “I don’t think any story is ever that simple. I want to believe that even when people do the wrong thing, they were doing it for all the right reasons.”

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, The Fire’s Heart reached its goal for pressing the CD in less than a day, which inspired Swanger to extend the goal to help with more of the production costs.

The Fire’s Heart, is Seahorse’s second record and Swanger surrounded himself with a talented cast of Oregon musicians, including members of the bands Norman and Easterly: Rob Harris (drums, percussion), William Johnson (lead guitar), Stan Keightley (bass, keys), Kerry Kincanon (bass), Brian Mosher (keys, banjo), Noah Hall (background vox), Cris Martinez (background vox), Jordan Pargeter (background vox), and Rick Swanger (background vox).

Recorded at Stan Keightley Jr.’s Vegetative State studio, The Fire’s Heart was produced by Seahorse and Keightley who also mixed the album.  Jeff Stuart Saltzman mastered the album at his home studios in Portland, OR.

While reviewing Seahorse’s first record, I’ll Be New noted rock critic, Jack Rabid described Swanger’s music -- "Seahorse's Rich Swanger, is more the bluesy school of Nick Drake lush folk...another cut-above voice and a feeling of intimacy".  The upcoming release, The Fire’s Heart continues to spotlight Swanger’s knack for warm, melodic vocals and vivid storytelling, a sound that the musician labels “Americana-tinged party music for wallflowers.”

“The Fire’s Heart was recorded in a proper studio with very talented musicians,” said Swanger, “I set out to write songs that played well with one another on this album.  There is lots of recurring imagery and I like the idea of these characters passing some of the same landmarks, I hope it illuminates the universal nature of their experience.”

“Nightingale” fittingly kicks off the record, as it was the first song Swanger wrote for the album and is followed by the religious traditional, “This Light”, Swanger’s take on a song from his Sunday school youth. “Anchor” is a song written for stormier times, or as the artist describes it, “...a place up ahead where I can go for some respite.” “Tyndall Rose” is a song about a baseball player. “Baseball was my first true love and my first heartbreak,” said Swanger, “I love everything about the game, its slow, subtle beauty and the way it connects me to my father and grandfathers. It was inevitable that one day I’d write a baseball song.”

“Angelina” is a song that is the source of the album title—“In the time it took to summon the storm, the fire’s heart was upon us.” The song also includes the poetic line, “a twisted plume of smoke, braided above the wreckage.” “Mansion” is a tale of a man, three witches who grant wishes and greed. “Carry The Fire” was written after the musician’s very rough, month-long tangle with Lyme disease that left him with a sense of mortality. It was also the first song he wrote after reading “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. “Lord help me use this gun" seemed like a scary and absurd thing to say,” Swanger recalls, “but it conjured up all kinds of scenarios in my mind. It epitomizes the album’s theme of characters crossing over into the darkness for all of the right reason and poses the question, ‘will you judge me for this?”

“Iris” is a medatative song for its author followed by the song, “Goldmine”.  “Basically I just wanted to say Sault Ste. Marie in a song, it’s such a hypnotic name to me,” said Swanger, “ There’s a city in Ontario and one across the river in Michigan—two cities with the same name.  This song is a tale of the two people one man became.”  “Some Bargain” is a tale of all of the dark faces you might wear to protect someone, and the ending song  “Fireweed” is the story of many generations of sorrow and darkness that a family experiences after a Native American woman is wronged on their land.”

Backed by a stellar band, The Fire’s Heart showcases Swanger’s ability to create songs out of his fairytales. “It just feels good to create things,” said Swanger, “Whether it’s a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, or a song, there is something very enriching about bringing something into the world that wasn’t there before.”

You can purchase this great album from here or here.

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