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On a given night (or on a given album) he’ll swing through blues, folk, soul, bluegrass, maybe some classic 50s rock, or a punk speedball. He’s a musical omnivore, devouring every popular music sound of the last 70 years, and mixing ’em all together seamlessly into his own stew. Yet, the one thing that most people notice about Patrick isn’t his ability to copy – it’s his authenticity. Like his heroes, folks like Bobby “Blue” Bland, Eddie Hinton, Doug Sahm, Joe Tex, Patrick somehow manages to blend all of these influences into something all his own.
It’s no wonder that as a kid he immersed himself in his dad’s extensive record collection: 60s folk, vintage country, soul, and, of course, blues. Patrick spent hours teaching himself to fingerpick along to Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and other folk-blues giants.
In his late teens, Patrick began playing the clubs and coffeehouses around Kent, OH. He quickly gained a reputation for the intricate country blues style he was developing: part Piedmont picking, part Delta slide – with an equally impressive deep, smooth vocal style.
Now, twenty years, six critically acclaimed records and one massively viral song (“Them Shoes”) later, Patrick Sweany has expanded his touring radius to 49 states, Canada, and Europe, both headlining and supporting acts such as The Black Keys, Tedeschi Trucks, The Wood Brothers, Hot Tuna, and others on tour.
Latest record, Ancient Noise (a title lifted from fellow NE Ohio musicians Devo), was recorded to tape at legendary Phillips Recording in Memphis with GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer Matt Ross-Spang at the helm. It features the incredible backing talents of Ken Coomer on drums (ex-WILCO), Ted Pecchio on bass (Susan Tedeschi, Col. Bruce Hampton), and Charles Hodges from Al Green’s Hi Rhythm Section on keyboards.
Nashville vocalist/guitarist Patrick Sweany doesn’t hold back on his latest studio album, Ancient Noise.
Sweany recorded the new tunes with GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer/producer Matt Ross-Spang after Ross-Spang invited Sweany to check out his new homebase at legendary Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis. The studio that Phillips had custom built in the 70s has been meticulously refurbished by the Phillips family.
“Sam Phillips Recording is the best place on earth to record a rock ‘n’ roll album,” says Sweany. “I live for going into the sessions with no pre-production rehearsals with the band, we just cut the album on the floor of Studio A song-by-song.”
For the sessions, Sweany recruited longtime collaborator Ted Pecchio on bass (Doyle Bramhall II, Col. Bruce Hampton) and ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer both from Nashville. When Sweany needed some organ on a song, Ross-Spang got in touch with Charles Hodges, a veteran Memphis session player best known for playing with Al Green on all of his seminal records.
Hodges fit in so well, he ended up on nearly every track on Ancient Noise. “Charles truly elevated the entire experience,” says Sweany. “In fact, when we met on the first day of recording, Charles led us through a prayer before we had even played a single note together. I’m not particularly religious, but I have to say that was quite the experience and really set the tone of the album. The music is refined, emotional, and I was taken out of my comfort zone many times, which leads to the magic you’re looking for when the tape is rolling.”
The record opens with two tracks (“Old Time Ways” and “Up & Down”) that recall the howling vocals and raw guitar work that first put Sweany on the map over a decade ago.
However, getting out of his comfort zone meant reimagining a lot of the songs Sweany had penned for Ancient Noise, none more so that the third track “Country Loving.” With Hodges’ grand piano front and center, Sweany croons like a young Tom Waits about long-term relationships, the stresses, the simple pleasures, the building of memories. It’s the most vulnerable song he’s ever recorded - and it heralds a new confidence in taking risks.
That confidence pushes through the rest of the record, where Sweany and the band delve deep into Allen Toussaint-style funk on “No Way No How,” the organ fueled “Get Along,” and “Cry Of Amédé,” which touches on the life of Amédé Ardoin, a brilliant, pioneering Creole musician who was brutally beaten in 1934 for accepting a hankerchief from a white woman.
Other tracks recall even wider influences: “Outcast Blues” has a bluesy lurch that recalls The Stones’ Exile On Main Street; “Play Around” has an early 60s do wop feel, and album closer “Victory Lap” ends with a raving coda that would make Bob Seger proud.
Ancient Noise is Patrick Sweany’s eigth full-length album, and it finds Sweany in top form, willing to push himself stylistically to great effect. The record comes out on Nine Mile Records on May 11, 2018.