Old-time and traditional folk has a strong presence in Vermont -- Celtic, French and English culture combine in the Green Mountains to produce music that is surprisingly fresh and vital, despite its antiquated origins. Swing & Tears -- a Burlington-based trio comprising Robert Resnik, Marty Morrissey and Gigi Weisman -- are a fine addition to the bounty of traditional acts calling Vermont home. Filled with rustic tones and old-fashioned instrumentation, Swing & Tears' self-titled debut is an unpolished gem.
Opening track "Farewell to Ireland" spins a tale of Irish optimism in the face of hardship, uncertainty and discrimination. Not just a sprightly jig, the tune's subject matter contains a cultural history that shouldn't be forgotten. Morrissey's plaintive vocals are at the front of the mix, giving the cut an intimate feel. Resnik's guitar playing is spirited, and he and Weisman provide vivacious backing vocals.
The subsequent tune, "Sofia," is a sorrowful instrumental composed by Resnik. His mournful button accordion playing is lovely, and when joined by Weisman on violin and Morrissey on concertina, the song becomes even more so. The track's old-world feel calls to mind images of old men playing cards around a tattered, checkered tablecloth.
"For the Sake of Company" is a sweetly amusing tale of the trouble folks can get into in the quest of a good time. Though the track is of uncertain provenance, it suggests that certain social behavior has changed very little over the years.
The Pete Sutherland song, "You Were the One Who Loved Me," is a truly classic ballad and a touching confession of romantic fidelity. Weisman's harmonies are a fine counterpoint to Morrisey's earnest lead vocal, and Resnik's piano playing is enjoyably understated.
Although this kind of music may never have a widespread resurgence, it's noteworthy that in the days before television and radio, songs such as these were considered "pop." Caretakers of a rich history, Swing & Tears keep old-time tradition alive with enthusiasm and verve. Hear them this Saturday, February 12, at the Vergennes Opera House.