LO-FI: An Evening With Patrick Sweany
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.