Brand Spankin’ New CD: Swimming with Nancy in a Stream of Consciousness

David Hopkins, a musician from Duluth, writes reviews of music for the Reader there. Here he listens to a new eponymous CD from the band Swimming with Nancy.

Swimming with Nancy

Following the eyes that peer through the goggles I open the cover like a book to the amorphous underwater imagery. I pop in the CD and dive in for some Swimming With Nancy. This new album is a musical, poetic look into our lives, musings and dreams. This CD brings forth the transcendent imagery of life “…on the bow of the ship of the now, on the crest of the wave of history … an unfolding mystery.”

I like lyrics that are clear and articulate but rich with layers of meaning. I like music that is clean, but complex enough to discover new phrases and voices with each listening. This album does that with a wealth of contemplative reflections that flow like a river. If I could name this album I’d call it Aqua Borealis.

On the back cover is a photo of the now extinct Rocket Fish. They played the local bar circuit, covering a repertoire of pop tunes when reality set in. Their musical enterprise provided an impoverished livelihood. They took a hiatus to reconsider. It is five years since Rocket Fish went downstream.

Now they have resurfaced and they are Swimming With Nancy. They still have an upbeat eclectic sound that is jazzy rock-folk but their priorities have changed. They perform only original material and they have clearer ideas about what satisfies them. They’ve become more expressive and creative.

This group of friends has played together for over fifteen years and have become very familiar with one another. Some of their friendships reach back through 30 years to their weathered roots of college years. John Craig first met Kristi Reque-Hutton in Oshkosh while she sang with a guitarist in a coffee house in the late ’70’s. John was a music student and had his flute, which he pulled out and began to play along. “I didn’t even ask. I just started playing.” He laughs. “Then we became a trio.”

Though they are all talented musicians, it is their friendship that fuels this band. This CD is the best Swimming With Nancy sound that I’ve heard during their five-year incarnation. For the past year and some months they have focused on this recording. Now they are returning to the public venues of the area. These musicians are open, generous people who enjoy the camaraderie of music. It is a rich experience to hear them in person.

Vocalist Kristi Reque-Hutton wrote the song This Life, an introspection of herself and her wish to “get out of my own way and dance the dance.” In the presence of such humility the listener easily appreciates the simple and amazing notion “how sacred every breath is.” Kristi’s breath gives us smooth songs that are pure beauty.

The other nine tunes were penned by songwriter David ‘Red’ Sorensen. Kristi says “He is very generous about letting me phrase his songs the way that I choose… He rarely takes exception with my interpretation.” And Sorensen remarks that each player’s natural musicality reflects the nuances of his writing.

The band relishes its synergy. Kristi explains, “When we play as a group, there is this energy that starts to move through us… It feeds the sound as a whole. We work off each other and sometimes when we are all “present” it turns into magic. When that happens, for those moments, bliss is real.”

John Craig says his favorite cut of the CD is Now. “There are guest vocalists on that tune,” he says. “…Gray’s Tree Frogs and Spring Peepers.” He says the band hopes to use more natural sounds, like water, on their upcoming recordings.

The many dimensions and depth of this music keeps it fresh. I was thinking how much I like the funky Rosy Fog especially when it breaks down into its contemplative interlude. Then the song Wired came through the speakers. I reviewed those lyrics in the album cover and decided it’s pretty cool too. I couldn’t choose one over the other. Kristi Reque-Hutton says she especially “ felt good about the harmonies on This Town.

This CD was recorded in drummer Tommy Rich’s farm kitchen and living room. Kristi asks, “How cool is that? … if we’d done this in some fancy-pants studio and spent a bazillion dollars… I don’t know if the CD would have sounded any better… I like that we did it in a farmhouse. I like that we are not part of the corporate music world. I like that we are our own little production facility. We fold the CD jackets and shrink wrap the CD’s in the same kitchen where I did the scratch vocal while the rhythm tracks were being laid down in the living room… the same kitchen where we have cooked many a meal and shared many bottles of wine…”

This CD is packaged in paper. That alone reflects the values of this band of being reasonable with resources and being connected with the world. In their spirit of creative originality, drummer Tommy Rich did the graphic design of the watery album cover. Kristi says it reflects the sensibilities of the band.

Asked if water was a theme that connects the old name Rocket Fish with the new Swimming With Nancy, John Craig says “No, it’s all just a stream of consciousness… and it turns into a never ending stream of details…”

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Swimming With Nancy, the band

Dave Berard………….. guitar, bass guitar
John Craig ……………. keyboards, flute, soprano sax, congas
Tommy Rich . . . . . . drums

Kristi Reque-Hutton .vocals, auxiliary percussion

Dave Sorensen . . . . . bass guitar, guitar, vocals