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Little Albert Wears a Hard Blues “Swamp King” Crown

swamp king

The languorous blues on Little Albert’s debut album Swamp King is spacious and patient, reveling in its Delta influences while melding them with ample infusions of psychedelic doom. The alter ego of Albert Piccolo, best known for his work with Italian jazzy-doom band Messa, Little Albert sees the guitarist and vocalist retaining traces of his band’s oozy heft as he texturally shifts his compositions and arrangements into muggier, mosquito-laden climes. Prostrate yourself at the feet of the Swamp King with our exclusive premiere of the album’s title track.

Having crowned Messa’s 2018 record Feast for Water as my personal album of the year, I was immediately intrigued when I heard about Piccolo’s foray into bluesier terrain. A 2019 solo cover of the Skip James staple “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” was the only trace of Piccolo’s reinvention as Little Albert until the announcement of the upcoming full-length album Swamp King, recorded in collaboration with bassist Christian Guidolin and drummer Mattia Zambon.

On Swamp King, Piccolo displays much of the same restraint in his pacing and musical choices that lent Feast for Water so much power, and the album’s title track is a clear illustration of these talents. Piccolo’s lushly layered vocals are compelling and refined, but make no mistake, Swamp King is a guitar record. With that in mind, it’s still a minute-long introduction and two complete vocal cycles until we reach the album’s first full-on guitar solo at three minutes. Little Albert knows how to make you wait, and when he delivers, he delivers in spades. The opening note of the “Swamp King” solo alone is stankface-inducing enough to set the tone for what he’ll bring on the rest of this intensely viscous record.

Much of Swamp King’s power rests on the contributions of Guidolin and Zambon, both very much aware of the influence that a single note — or absence of one — can impart. It’s the sparseness and subtlety of their rhythm section that permits Piccolo’s guitar to resound with so many voices. When Zambon lays down a rim click instead of a snare hit, or injects a tight trill on the hats instead of hissing them against each other, or suspends time achingly until the next downbeat, these choices carry weight, and the same is true for Guidolin’s pervasive low-end stability, when he elects to embellish it, and how he goes about doing so. Together, the two provide Piccolo with an unshakeable foundation built on tasteful musicianship, and as a trio, they embody the idea that, in so many cases, artful and responsible performance is not so much about playing all the notes, but simply placing the right ones in the right places.

Swamp King releases March 27th on vinyl, CD, and digital via Aural Music.

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