Patrick Sweany began his musical journey in acoustic blues, but quickly stepped over to electric sounds and was never shy about incorporating soul and R&B. His latest record is titled Close To The Floor and the bluesman explores various dark themes including the gut-wrenching topic of premature death.
Exploration and the blues seems to encounter certain obstacles. Wander too far and purists will call you out on having abandoned it. Stay right in the center and be ignored for not offering anything new. I’ve always thought of the chord progressions and riffs in the blues to be like poetic forms, and wondered if modern writers could ever say anything new within those established patterns. Of course, there’s no shortage of things to be “blue” about. Poverty, heartache, day-drinking. These are subjects that one doesn’t have any personal experience with to get something out of a well-turned phrase.
It’s doubtful that Patrick Sweany’s sweating the legitimacy of what he does; he’s an established musician who’s received plenty of praise from musicians and critics alike. But describing his music as blues works as useful shorthand, keeping in mind that the most revealing thing about listening to this album is the idea that he’s making the music he wants.
The sounds are warm, humid even, there’s a barley perceptible hum that clings to every chord and lick. Sweany’s vocals at their most intense push past the analog tape they’re recorded to leaving the impression his howls might reverberate forever.
It’s a genre that doesn’t seem to have ever been fashionable, certainly not in the way that so many vaguely folkish bands are right now, with the possible exception of The Black Keys, but I don’t get the sense that anyone is clamoring for a bluesy Mumford and Sons. There’s an honesty to this music that belongs outside all of that. It’s raw and carries itself just fine without worrying about what decade it is or where it fits in.
Close To The Floor is out now.