After moving to Brooklyn, Jean-Luc Swift sinks his North Carolina country roots into the grit of New York metropolitan life. ‘Uncle Bill’s New York City Lament’ is a country-alternative-indie blend that you’ve never heard before.
Having lived my life in southern England, I don’t imagine it’s surprising to hear that Americana is a genre I’ve never really delved into before – well, with Jean Luc-Swift’s discography, that fog is being lifted. ‘Uncle Bill’s New York City Lament’ is the first track of Swift’s debut EP ‘New York City Lament’, a captivating union of both Southern and Northern American culture and thought.
In ‘Uncle Bill’, Swift presents a wonderfully illustrative commentary on “class, public indifference and working life,” over bouncing acoustic guitar, steady drums and gospel organ chords. Perhaps it’s unusual to find a Southern drawl commenting on vignettes of downtrodden metropolitan life – or perhaps I’m just not versed in country music – but Swift’s lyricism presents a stark reversal of what might be expected.
It’s for that very reason why I love this track so much, and why Jean-Luc Swift is such a remarkable songwriter; by incorporating elements of alternative indie-rock and current-affairs commentary, he makes country music accessible to a whole generation of music listeners that, before, could hardly relate to the genre at all. As Swift points out himself (in ‘The JLS Times Newsletter’ he created, charmingly designed as if pulled off 1960s church noticeboard), we all have an “Uncle Bill” who turns his blind eye toward the troubles of others.
‘Uncle Bill’, as well as the standalone single ‘Headline’, are (unexpectedly for me) two of my favourite tracks of the year so far. If you choose to check out Jean-Luc Swift, consider visiting his website to buy the ‘New York City Lament’ EP – all sales will go towards Bed-Stuy Strong, a mutual-aid organisation for the community that Swift lives in.