Does the idea of a supergroup scare you?
Granted, when artists from different bands come together to work on a "project", the results too often don't live up to the potential or hype. Perhaps this happens because the sessions are informal and the atmosphere is very loose, not exactly a great setting for inspiration. That said, do not be afraid of the latest supergroup, Swag, or their CD Catch-All.
Swag was formed when Robert Reynolds and Jerry Dale McFadden, two members from the country band, the Mavericks, decided they wanted to explore making an album of songs in the style of sixties and seventies pop-rock. Before you can say "Chris Gaines", they hooked up with like-minded artists such as Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson (obviously no stranger to seventies pop), singer/songwriter Doug Powell, and Ken Coomer, the drummer for the alt-country band, Wilco.
Catch-All is a virtual tour-de-force of classic pop. On each track, the listener gets to play the game, name that influence, starting with the faux-British Invasion opener, "Lone". Granted, absolutely no new ground is broken here, but what makes Catch-All so enjoyable is the attention to detail the band gives these songs, including the most important detail of all: these songs are incredibly catchy.
Powell was certainly serious about this project. The two songs he co-wrote and sings on Catch-All sound like they could have made it to one of his solo albums. In fact, "When She Awoke" did appear in demo form on his CD, Curiouser. In Catch-All, producer Brad Jones fleshes out the song in all its glory, making it sound like a tender ballad that George Harrison might have written for the Beatles.
The other song Powell wrote is much different. "I'll Get By" is a rocker that frankly I cannot trace the influence. Powell sings this one with great intensity, and it is not the type of feel-good song that dominates the CD. It has this great line: "Our love was just a play/I never paid to see/but your little tragedy/it's all Greek to me."
Catch-All alternates between ballads and rockers, for the most part very smoothly. One exception is the sweet folk-rock ballad, "Near Perfect Smile", and the garage-band stomper, "Please Don't Tell", which are good songs on their own, but a bit of a rough transition hearing them back to back. These two songs do show the versatility of Reynolds as a singer, considering he is not the lead singer of his own band.
McFadden, the other Maverick, has a distinctively high-pitched voice but puts it to very good use on songs like the very catchy "Louise", the cute Paul McCartneyesque number, "Trixie", and on the other end of the spectrum, the rocking "Ride". He can also be heard singing in unison with Reynolds on the aforementioned "Please Don't Tell", and on "You", a bluesy pop song recalling something John Lennon might have written for the Beatles around 1968 or 1969.
By now, you've figured out that the Beatles are a huge influence on Catch-All, so much so that Coomer's one singing contribution, "Eight", basically sounds like, for better or worse, the Ringo song on a Beatles album. At least, the Beatles songs they reference aren't obvious ones like "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
Other influences on Catch-All range from the Beach Boys on the pretty ballad, "Different Girl" to "Ride", which not only sounds like In Color-era Cheap Trick, but mentions Cheap Trick in the lyrics, just in case you didn't get the reference. "She's Deceiving" is the closing number and with its soft and loud passages, it pretty much sums up the whole CD.
Is Catch-All a great album? Hardly. Swag won't make anyone forget the bands or the albums that they are emulating, but if you like the artists they like, it is definitely a fun listen. Everyone sounds like they were having fun making it, but they also sound like they were serious about getting it right. So for that, you could call this an anti-supergroup album.