In the mid-1990s, retro swing music went mainstream and the Squirrel Nut Zippers were among the most commercially and critically successful bands to ride the wave of nostalgia. Tom Maxwell was the lead singer for the Zippers during their 1994-99 peak years before deciding to strike out on his own.
Maxwell never achieved much acclaim as a solo artist and he hasn’t released an album since 2005’s “Maxwell/Mosher.” Now, almost a decade later, Maxwell returns with a vengeance and has a new band in two. Tom Maxwell & The Minor Drag mine much of the same turf as the Zippers on this self-titled gem and his longtime fans should enjoy the nine-track, 34-minute release.
With guest vocals from Ani DiFranco and a backing band that includes members of Lost in the Trees and The Old Ceremony, Maxwell has surrounded himself with first-rate talent. The party gets started with keepers “Roll With It” and “Blow Wolf,” and Maxwell & The Minor Drag also score with “So High,” “The Funky Knuckle” and “Jacob Marley.” The only hiccup is middling closer “One Row,” but on balance this one’s a winner. (Jeffrey Sisk)