Oliver Swain- In A Big Machine

Oliver and I first met as teenagers sifting our way through the same high school hallways and social nuances.  We became friends through similar creative expressions, such as art, poetry, and music, shared also by our larger circle of friends.  Oliver picked up the bass while many of us picked up the guitar, and we strummed along to the greatest of three-chord hits.  Since then, Oliver has made music his life path, carrying him around the globe and through histories of culture and rhythm, with experiences and expression accumulating constantly.  Oliver is now a well known name in the North American folk music scene. He’s shone at the forefront of the Western Canada Music Awards nominated group Outlaw Social, held up the bottom end of The Bills, and even completed a one year stint with Louisiana’s popular Red Stick Ramblers.  He’s lived in Winnepeg, touring  with Scruj Macduhk and exploring the Winnepeg folk scene, when he also recorded a sweet little album with Ruth Moody and Jeremy Penner, as Moody, Penner, and Swain.  I especially remember watching his presence with Outlaw Social at the 2008 Vancouver Folk Festival, and feeling ever more in awe of the musical inspiration and journey that has become Oliver’s unique and authentic sound.  He’s won awards, supported many well known Canadian musicians, and spearheaded an effort to bring a folk festival back to his hometown of Victoria.

We have been blessed to have Oliver bring his music to Pender a few times over the past 2 years, accompanied by a rotation of incredible musicians and showcasing an ever evolving take on his original and traditional songs.  The innovation that Oliver has developed with his voice, his upright bass, and his 120 year old goat skin banjo tells tales of the time spent dedicated to the art of his musicality. Recently, Oliver came to Pender on a tour celebrating the recording of his first solo album, In A Big Machine.  Joining Oliver’s voice, bass and banjo stylings onstage and forming “Big Machine” are: Adrian Dolan (fiddle/accordion), Quinn Bachand (guitar), James Whitall (mandolin), Josh Dixon (trap kit), and Emily Braden (vocals).  Hearing the expanded sound of  songs that I have been listening to as solo pieces played now in a 6 piece band, I knew that Oliver’s leap of faith in focusing now on his own musical expression will be widely discovered and appreciated.  His music blends the lines of folk with his own innovations of sound, producing harmonic rhythms and diverse vocals that feel steeped in tradition and culture.  His new album, In A Big Machine, is a beautiful collection of five tracks of Oliver’s original music, coupled with a few heavy hitting traditional numbers, and Oliver’s 120 year old goat skin banjo takes on a Bruce Springsteen classic.  He pushes the boundaries of his bowed upright bass, and keeps the pace through the rest with Oliver’s signature clawhammer banjo style.  In A Big Machine was co-produced by Adrian Dolan (The Bills, Rankin Sisters, Chieftains) with Oliver at Marlborough Studios, and boasts a slew of appearances from his contemporaries such as Jeremy Penner (The Wailin’ Jenny’s), Emma Beaton (Joy Kills Sorrow), Adam Dobres and Emily Braden to name a few.

“IN A BIG MACHINE” will be available commercially in January 2011, pre-orders available at any shows, and Oliver’s OFFICIAL WEBSITE is coming soon!


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