The songwriting and singing never drop below excellent on a solid debut album.
After a couple of years of “lockdown albums” we seem to be moving beyond them to rather more optimistic songwriting. Surge and the Swell, which is primarily the vehicle for singer-songwriter Aaron Cabbage say their album has; “a theme of accepting the new normal”. There is the danger on an album where a list of higher profile friends have been drafted in to help create the music that the person with their name over the door can end up being almost a guest no their own record. Here the credits are headed by Adam Levy (Turn Turn Turn, Honeydogs) and Noah Levy – (Brian Setzer, Peter Frampton, Golden Smog). Fortunately Cabbage’s voice and personality are strong enough to rise above a list of helpers. His voice has a distinctive growl, and the album feels like an album rather than some lashed together songs, which can be a problem with debuts.
Thee is nothing startling or innovative about the music. Guitar playing, especially the electric, drive the best of the songs along. ‘Mistakes’, ‘Hard Work’ and ‘Gravity Boots’ are the current favourites, but there isn’t a bad song on the album. The Byrds flavoured ‘Closing Doors’ is perhaps the weakest on offer, but it is still more than worth its place on the record. The latter third of the album drifts more towards acoustic songs, suggesting that his ambition for the songs to “be performed on a big stage celebrating outdoor music or in more intimate settings with an acoustic guitar with warm harmonies”. His voice is strong enough to carry the tunes with just a guitar, and also to get above the roar of his full band. Describing his music as “soaring-chorus Americana” is about right. There are touches of influences from all over the more rock and roll side of Americana, but none of them intrude enough to stop this being very much his own album.
The information that arrived with ‘Offering’ was at pains to highlight the “solid songs and impressive crew of musicians”. Right on the first count. Adam Levy is credited as song writing mentor, but has not imposed himself on the songs as far as is possible to tell. Spending the rest of the press release talking about the players on the album does Cabbage a disservice. The cohesive feel to the album rises above the sum of its parts and guest list. A solid start and next time the cast of thousands will be unnecessary.