It was February 19th, 2021. A Friday night. Something was taking place.
It was an album release. There was live, original music from a local act in a local venue.
It was not a blue moon; it was Swingbridge’s album ‘The Garden’ played in its entirety at the Early Settlers Hall in Oamaru. Swingbridge is Bridget Ellis’ project, her way of letting the music have the spotlight. Years of patience had paid off and the triumph was that after a year like 2020, and with all the important messages throughout the songs needing a serious platform, Bridget still made it look fun.
Bridget has chosen well those she has taken along for the ride. There is no better voice to complement her own on the album than Lynley Caldwell’s. There is no better bass-playing and singing showman than Steve Harrop to have joined her on stage. There is no better combination of art and music than to have Dave Kingan’s work as the cover art. Bridget may say that it was a group effort but the downplayed centre of this work is the songwriting.
During the set and especially at the end, Bridget calls for audience participation. It is welcomed in an audience of her peers, but what she doesn’t realise is the complexity of her phrases and precise delivery, along with a unique tone, makes for a difficult song to join in on no matter how catchy, accessible and well-developed each song is. It really is the sign of a crafted voice and body of work that experienced singers would want nothing more to sing along, but find they have to settle for shutting up and listening for the best result.
It is something to celebrate that in the age of YouTube and Spotify that Bridget has been successful in delivering an album at all – every song existing on its own merits without extrinsic motivation – but that the perspectives shared are so meaningful, so sincere and born of the personality and experience of the songwriter is something else altogether. It is inspiring to not only hear her tunes turn up in your mental playlist days after listening to them, but to see it live and get the full picture: the tunes and riffs are complex; the songs are varied and alive; and the album an ecosystem of feeling and meaning. What better name to give it than ‘The Garden.
We can only hope that the audience for original music creation and performance will grow with acts like this on offer.
Text by Eddie Robinson