Alice Swoboda

1971 saw two releases on the newly minted Note label: Eula Cooper’s “Standing By Love”b/w “I Need You More” with the second release on the stark black and white label coming from the voice and pen of Alice Harper, who’d become Alice Swoboda. Amazingly enough, Alice chose “Swoboda” after hearing about mediocre Yankee outfielder Ron Swoboda. The name was beauty to her ears and expressed something of her soul. She’d hoped to use just a simple Swoboda as a stage name, but Jones, to avoid confusion, retained the “Alice” for her records. “I Think It’s Time (You Were Mine)” is progressive Southern soul that sharply translates Alice’s songwriting into pop, but it was very uncharacteristic of her personal style. Alice’s mother—hearing it for the first time—asked, “Who is that singing?” This didn’t stop Roulette from licensing it, and the New Jersey company even managed to make a tiny dent in the charts and secure Alice a local following. When she returned to Muscle Shoals a few months later, she recorded a piece that was much closer to home. “Potter’s Field” is a mellow slice of soul-folk comparable to the blue moods of Terry Callier’s What Color Is Love, and that might be a stretch. It certainly didn’t fit in any genre that anyone at R&B radio knew, keeping its fingers in every bowl on the table: coffeehouse folk, late night jazz, and eccentric soul. The flipside, “Dove of Peace,” was just as fascinating, embellishing Harper’s already strange approach with stock sound effects. Jones and Barrow were excited about the single, and rightfully so, but the release was a fool’s errand, albeit a noble one. Perhaps it would have fared better as an album on Vanguard or Elektra, but Atlanta was far, far away from the epicenter of cafe culture. The beauty of Swoboda’s two singles was lost on the audience they had access to and failed to catch on. Alice Swoboda did not give up, however, managing to channel the hype around her releases into a performing career and becoming a luminary of the Atlanta folk scene.

Alice Swoboda Appears on: