He's a new name to me but Patrick Sweany has been around quite a while, with several albums to his name since his 1999 debut. He's made his name on the blues side of blues rock, both for his guitar playing and for his raw-throated singing, but there's always been plenty of strings to his bow, with forays into country, soul and rockabilly along the way. This new album, the first for four years, finds the man relocated to Nashville and working with engineer/musician/producer Joe V McMahan. You won't find much in the way of rhinestones, cowpokes or back porches about this music, however. This is rock music, really, with a solid blues background and a hefty (and very wonderful) dose of classic soul. If you want a guidepost, we're in territory that's pretty much in the vein of The Drive-by Truckers and Jason Isbell's 400 Unit.
I have to say that rarely has a cd's artwork so deceived me about the music as in this case. Some pastel shaded rural scenes decorate a soft sepia cover and the man himself looks the picture of polite respectability with his neat haircut and unplugged guitar. I was expecting that the songs would be gentle and thoughtful with the tasteful country touches that Nashville musicians excel at. Thoughtful may have been right but gentle was dead wrong. Patrick Sweany's got a heck of a voice - great for a blues rocker but possibly even better when he lets out his soulman persona, not so far behind the great soul voices of the late 60s. Sometimes there's great pleasure to be had in hearing somebody unexpectedly pull off a style with such aplomb: like seeing a footballer score a wonder goal or a high diver fall through the air with perfect grace, we somehow feel elevated as human beings that one of us could achieve such magic. The songs here that get the soul treatment, especially Same Thing, sound like we've known them all our lives and it puts a smile on the face to hear that great warm soul vibe.
It might be the soul songs that sucked me into this album, but it's the beefy rock sound of Patrick's band on this album that really astonishes. Tight, solid and thunderous, the rhythm section of Adam Abrashoff (drums) and Tim Marks (bass) make such a strong sound between them that it takes a mighty voice to not be overwhelmed by their power. No exaggeration, there are some numbers where I'm put in mind of John Bonham and John Paul Jones and it's a thrill to hear guys being able to pull off that controlled power - there's a sense that you'd be flat out on the floor if they really cut loose. At other times, there'll be some glorious swirling organ to catch the ear and echoes of other styles - a little Sam Cooke maybe, some jangly rock, maybe some early to mid 60s pop rock in the style of Dion. Everything comes with love and commitment - this is full-blooded music of high quality, something of a treasure trove for people whose enthusiasms, like Patrick Sweany's, reach back through the last fifty years of great American music.
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