The Black Swans at Empty Bottle | Photos and review
“There’s a dark cloud hanging over/ And some trouble on my mind,” Jerry DeCicca sincerely intoned as the Black Swans’ set neared its end. The line does an admirable job of summing up what makes the music produced by the Columbus, Ohio folk-rockers so captivating. There’s a certain amount of sadness present in DeCicca’s wavering voice and an almost constant sense of melancholy amid his frankly delivered lyrics. The group’s latest release, Occasion for Song, finds them grappling with the grief brought on by the death of a former band mate. It’s a heavy subject, but one that is tackled with conviction, amid shimmering lap steel chords and lonesome harmonica solos. DeCicca’s distinctive twang rose above the din of the venue’s bar, twisting around the soulful strains of “Joe Tex” and bouncing wordplay of “Fickle & Faded.” Backed by a restrained group of players, there was always plenty of room for a biting lyric or a harmonica interlude. “Good times will come again,” an uncharacteristically hopeful DeCicca growled over the bridge of “Shake.” For all the beauty of his often-morose melodies, one can’t help but hope that he’s right.
Experimental rockers Mako Sica solidified the evening’s mournful tone with an opening set made up of a trio of droning, percussion-driven tracks scattered with haunting, indecipherable vocals.