- â€¦And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead and The Coathangers have teamed up as Thee Deadcoats to cover Pussy Riot’s â€œPutin Lights Up the Firesâ€. Proceeds will be split between the funding of Pussy Riot’s legal defense and the American Red Cross Sandy relief effort.
- Classic 1981 concert film “Urgh! A Music War” is available to view in full on YouTube.
- BBC Radio Four’s “Mastertapes” is available as a podcast (meaning non-Brits can listen without any country restrictions). “Mastertapes” is an interview, audience Q&A and performance show, and programs posted so far have featured Billy Bragg, Suzanne Vega, and Paul Weller.
- Richard Hell is publishing an autobiography called I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp in March of 2013. The book can be pre-ordered at Amazon. There is a review of Chapter 28, which was released as a chap book, at We Who Are About to Die.
- While most of the output from new Cleveland radio station 87.7 is pretty bland, the station is now the new home of Cleveland-centric showcase Inner Sanctum on Sunday nights from 9 to 11 p.m. Cleveland bands who would like to be considered for inclusion on the show should e-mail their name, e-mail address, telephone number, and links to any social media to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Further to local music news, Patrick Sweany is finally coming back to the Cleveland area. Sweany will be playing Mahall’s in Lakewood on November 23. Buy tickets here.
The second installment of our Deep Blues Focus series includes one of two Ohio bands on the bill and a one-woman band who has me pretty jacked up.
Name: Molly Gene One Whoaman Band
Homebase: Kansas City, Missouri
Related artists: Bob Log III, The Reverend Deadeye, The Goddamn Gallows
Molly Gene One Whoaman Band – Bumble Bee
Homebase: Nashville, Tennessee
Scissormen – Do Wrong Man – DBF08
Name: The Staving Chain
Homebase: Toledo, Ohio
Related artists: Henry & June, Johnny Walker (Soledad Brothers, Cut in the Hill Gang), Black Diamond Heavies, Mark Porkchop Holder
The Staving Chain – various
The Patrick Sweany Band – After Awhile – DBF08
Patrick Sweany should be a household name. I believed that before I saw him live, and that belief grew tenfold last night. Setting up in a little corner of a little restaurant/bar back on his old home turf, accompanied by his dad on washtub bass, Sweany played a three-hour, acoustic show (with a short break in the middle) that drew from almost every one of his five albums as well as including a healthy dose of covers. Weaving in and out of favorites by Joe Tex, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sam Cooke, Guitar Slim, Bob Wills and Willie Nelson, Sweany laid down his own fans’ favorites like “After Awhile”, “Your Man” and “Them Shoes”.
And, of course, as it was the day that would have been the 100th birthday of Robert Johnson, a blues-influenced musician like Sweany wasn’t going to get away without playing a Johnson song. Though instead of echoing the covers of “Cross Road Blues” and “Sweet Home Chicago” that were surely being played in bars throughout the nation, Sweany chose the lesser known “Walking Blues”, treating the crowd to some delicious slide action. Though, I have to say, my favorite cover of the night was Sweany’s take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moanin’ at Midnight”.
Early Sweany tracks like “Sleepy Town”, “Bring the Money Home” and “Bad Luck, Bad Luck” nestled seamlessly with the old blues and country covers, showing how artfully he has incorporated his influences while still making it all truly his own. Sweany’s newest, and sweetest – on a number of levels, album That Old Southern Drag was, of course, well-represented with rockers like “Sleeping Bag”, “Heavy Problems (Peavey Rage)”, the bouncy “Shoestring” and the heartfelt “Same Thing”.
The highlight of the evening was probably “More and More”, a song written for and dedicated to Sweany’s soon-to-be-wife Missy. He poured his heart into it, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a man happier about his upcoming nuptials.
Seeing Patrick Sweany live not only amplifies just how skilled and talented the man is as a vocalist and guitarist – he’s the kind of player who has probably frustrated more than one hopeful young guitar player because he makes it look so damn easy – but shows that his stage presence and charm are equal to his musical gifts, joking with his dad and the audience (ask him about his imaginary dead brother Chip sometime) and making everyone feel like a friend.
Sweany and his pops finished the show with a cover of “Having a Party” that gave truth to the title, and, had there been room for it, there would have been dancing. Instead, the audience used that energy to call Sweany back for an encore that ended with a tour-de-force version of “Smokestacks” that included nods to everything from “Smoke on the Water” to the Rolling Stones and left everyone smiling.
- Patrick Sweany was featured on Cleveland public radio program Around Noon this past Thursday. A lovely interview with a couple of wonderful live songs. Listen here.
- Infantree will be re-releasing their album Would Work in a re-mastered version at the end of April.
- Akron’s Shivering Timbers are venturing out beyond Ohio and will be playing Nashville, Tennessee – February 25 at the Basement and February 27 at the 5 Spot. Their album, We All Started in the Same Place, is now available on iTunes.
- Still Bill, a documentary about the amazing Bill Withers is now airing on Showtime.
And, from Jennifer:
- Empires, scrappy little band of my heart, has a shot at being the first unsigned band to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. They are from Chicago, and when I last discussed them on NTSIB , I described them as a “punch drunk love affair” and that description is still true. Their sound is big and raw and sexy and, basically, rock and roll at its finest.
Please, NTSIBbers, go and vote for them here at Rolling Stone, and then feel free to pass the link around.
This is a video for “Hello Lover”, their latest single:
To continue Patrick Sweany Month here at NTSIB, we are pleased to have a guest review of Patrick’s recent CD release show in St. Louis by our friend Nate Burrell, along with some wonderful photos by Nate and another talented photographer, Kate McDaniel.
On a cold and icy Thursday evening in south city St. Louis, music fans braved the elements to go out and see an absolutely stellar 3-band bill at Off Broadway â€“ our city’s premier music venue. With the stage lights beaming down, headliner, Nashville-based rhythm and soul rock-n-roller, Patrick Sweany grabbed his pale green guitar, stepped to the mic and shouted out “All right, St. Louis, how ya doin’?” and immediately started into a hot set that melted the stage and unthawed the ears of anyone unfamiliar with his signature sound. Backed by an extremely tight bassist and a drummer with metronome like precision, Sweany burned through a few numbers from early in his catalogue before unleashing live versions of tracks from his recently released 5th album That Old Southern Drag. Showcasing his commanding guitar work and his beautifully raspy, soul-filled voice, Patrick stomped, shredded, and howled out tune after tune for 75+ minutes, leaving the crowd wanting more. With an applause that could be heard three blocks down, Sweany played one last song before stepping off of the stage and into the masses, where he began handshaking, talking eye-to-eye with every approaching fan, and thanking the out-of-town crowd that he had just won over.
Opening the evening and warming up the stage were St. Louis-based indie folk darlings Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine. Morgan, whose song craft is as brilliant as anyone in the industry today, and her band mate, the endlessly talented Beth Bombara, played a delightfully beautiful set of original tunes that held the room at a captivated stand-still. With songs formed around Morgan’s eerily delicate vocals and outstanding use of space in her guitar playing, while Bombara sang in deliciously on-point harmony as she laid down layer after layer of percussive accompaniments, these two multi-instrumentalists were able to let their uniquely organic sound breathe a melodic breath, that was warmly welcomed by their appreciative hometown crowd.
Rounding out the evening was the ever-energetic Benjamin Riley. With a five-piece band backing him, Riley took control of the center stage and absolutely let loose. Belting out a series of upbeat songs, Benjamin let his gritty soul-soaked vocals do the rolling, while he and his band did the rocking. At one point, Riley and bassist Kit Hamon were so into the moment that they were literally stomping and playing in unison â€“ completely awesome to see. Just as they did for the Sweany, Morgan and Bombara, the crowd showed their appreciation and respect to this up-and-coming St. Louis band.
Three bands. Lots of people. One kick-ass venue. All coming together for an excellent night of live music.
St Louis music photographers Nate Burrell and Kate McDaniel were in the front row capturing it all as it went down. See the show as they saw it â€“ both in black & white and color. And when you are done with the visual stimulation, go get the sounds of each band at their website. You’re sure to be a fan when it’s all said and done. Rock on!
Who Kate and Nate often shoot for:
Shows worth checking out this week in and around Cleveland:
- Fri, Feb 11| 9 PM (8:30 PM door)
Waterloo Alley Cat Project Fundraiser
Rainy Day Saints
$5 / $3 admission with dry or canned cat food
Tavern | All Ages
- Sat, Feb 12| 8 PM (7 PM door)
Hoots & Hellmouth
Holy Ghost Tent Revival
Ballroom | All Ages
- Mon, Feb 14| 8 PM (7 PM door)
$15 adv / $17 dos
Ballroom | All Ages
- Tue, Feb 15| 8:30 PM (8 PM door)
Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds (feat. Kid Congo Powers – ex Cramps, Gun Club, Bad Seeds)
Shouting Thomas Torment
DJ Hot Trash
Tavern | All Ages
- Wed, Feb 16| 8 PM (7:30 PM door)
The Modern Electric
Tavern | All Ages
- Thu, Feb 17| 8 PM (7 PM door)
The Ray Johnston Band
$15 adv / $17 dos
Ballroom | All Ages
- Sun, Feb 13| 8 PM
Rainy Day Saints
- Wed, Feb 16| 8 PM
- Fri, Feb 11| 9 PM
- Tue, Feb 15| 8 PM (7 PM door)
The Robert Cray Band
$25 adv / $27 dos / $45 balcony
Patrick Sweany will be playing at Zephyr Pub in Kent, Ohio, on Friday, February 18, and I couldn’t be more excited. Here’s a clip of the Patrick Sweany band playing on an old local show called Crooked River Groove back in 2006. Check out Patrick’s big-ass belt buckle.
It’s Patrick Sweany month here at NTSIB (check out the interview we did with Patrick if you missed it). Patrick kicks off a series of CD release shows for his latest, That Old Southern Drag, starting tonight in St. Louis at Off Broadway (check his website for more dates – more dates coming). To see why you should not miss the opportunity to see Patrick live if he’s coming to your town, check out the videos below.
Here’s Patrick playing the hell out of “Hotel Women” – and blessing a sneezer in the audience without missing a beat – from his album Every Hour is a Dollar Gone at Merlefest 2009.
From the same album, “After Awhile”, filmed at the Old Rock House in St. Louis in December, 2010.
And for the players, here’s a video of Patrick leading a workshop at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, teaching Papa Charlie Jackson’s “Shake That Thing”.
Listening to Patrick Sweany’s albums is like reading his life. In between and over top of melodies that are sometimes sweet and sometimes rough, deftly finger-picked on acoustic and electric guitar, Sweany uses the full range of his rich baritone to sing of everything from the rigors of touring to the most painful complications of love. He doesn’t pull many punches, laying out his struggles and fears with his career and his personal life under a lens that looks as unflinchingly at himself as it does at anyone else. His voice, sometimes soft as a hand brushed against a loved one’s skin, sometimes as harshly ragged as a rusted-out muffler dragged down miles of dusty backroads, reflects the truth of every word.
Drawing on influences from Mississippi blues to classic soul to New Orleans R&B; to classic country & western to protest folk to rock of all stripes to a wealth of other styles and sounds that he has avidly devoured since his childhood, Sweany has steadily, industriously been carving out a career for over a decade, producing five albums to date (with one, C’mon C’mere, co-produced by Jimbo Mathus and Dan Auerbach and another, Every Hour is a Dollar Gone, produced by Auerbach). Coming out of Northeastern Ohio and currently settling in Nashville, Patrick Sweany is a sharp, smart, funny, determined man with a flair for storytelling. Though he has a degree in English Literature (“which I pronounce ‘Let-trah-chah,’ and rotate my palm upward, swirling the brandy in my imaginary snifter,” Sweany says), it’s clear that Sweany was meant for music not only because of his immense talent, but because he is also someone who truly loves music (When I told him of how standing in Sun Studio in Memphis had me fighting back tears, he confessed, “The Stax museum did the same to me, just brought me to tears.”*). This may seem like a redundant thing to say about a musician, but, trust me, it’s more rare than it should be.
Patrick Sweany’s fifth album, the beautiful That Old Southern Drag will see physical release on February 15 (and it’s already available for download on his Bandcamp site). Thanks to a push from NTSIB collaborator Nate Burrell, I was able to sit down, via e-mail, with Sweany for a lovely chat that revealed how The Cosby Show was integral to his development into a musician, the existence of a secret juke joint in the middle of downtown Cleveland and more.
Alright, Mr. Sweany, let’s do this thing. (And thanks again for doing this thing with me.)
I know your father plays guitar and was an influence on you, but was there a “moment” that set you on the road to being a musician?
The moment where I decided “I want to be a musician,” was probably when I was about 12 or 13. I was probably 12. Mom and Dad were working, my brothers were down in the basement playing video games, and I was listening to a Pete Seeger album that my dad had, on the big console stereo. The album was recorded live, and it was just so great. The way all those people listened to him and sang along when he asked them to and erupted with applause, and the way that performance made me feel. I hadn’t really been exposed to a lot of different music, other than what my dad had, so none of this music sounded dated, or folk-y in the derogatory sense. I was just a kid. I had no concept of what the social and societal ramifications of the particular time frame (MLK, Kennedy, pre-summer of love, civil rights movement) were when that recording was made. I knew that at that point in my life, this record moved me and I wanted to be there. The guy on the record was just one guy. My Dad could play most of the songs on that record. I knew my dad was a cool guy, so I figured I’m his kid, I could be cool, I could pull this off. I felt so knocked out and excited by guys playing guitars and singing, I just wanted to be like that. I wanted to do what they were doing. It was different than watching a guy win a game.
There were other times. Hearing Ray Charles’ “Night Time is the Right Time” on The Cosby Show. Watching it in the living room with my Mom and Dad and my brothers. That was before everyone had cable, before most TVs had remote controls. All the Huxtable kids were lip synch-ing and dancing to the record. Ray’s voice, that band, Margie Hendricks singing, hollerin’, “Squeeze me, hold me tight. You know I love you… etc.” It made me so excited. Remember, I’m just a kid, and sex wasn’t anything I was remotely thinking about. I knew what it was, but I didn’t understand anything about it. I was excited like a kid gets about riding bikes or new toys. I wanted to holler like that. I didn’t understand what Margie and Ray were saying, but I could feel it was something different. I wanted to make people dance like the kids on TV. I didn’t want that song to be over. I don’t think we had a VCR or anything at that time, not that many people did, if any. It was just gone when it was over. I felt little bit embarrassed because I wanted to know about it, but I didn’t understand. It was just something that I thought about. It would make me excited when I thought about it, and I would mouth what I thought the words were when I was alone, and maybe dance around a little bit, using my imagination, like a kid does. I didn’t really know who Ray Charles was until a few years later, but I figured it out pretty naturally.
Your answer leads into so many other things I want to ask you. For instance, the joy and excitement you obviously found in music then still comes through in your performances now. One of the things that knocks me out most about your music is the passion that comes through, especially in your voice. Since you’ve been at this for a while now, do you find that passion and excitement difficult to maintain? Or is it just like breathing for you?
Doing a gig/performing is always exciting. If I let it all hang out, really let it fly on the bandstand, play good, holler in key, and really move around and get sweaty, I feel really good. Better than anything else, I’ve found. It’s kept me from getting into self destructive behavior (despite providing countless opportunities to do exactly that!), it’s given me an opportunity to meet people and see places I never would have known existed. It seems to make other people able to feel good. Vocalizing that emotion is important to conveying that, so I sometimes push the voice a little harder than I probably should, but I have a pretty firm grasp of my limits, or least what I can bounce back from. I get a lot of satisfaction from entertaining people. The physicality of it is important. It’s not all of it. A lot of the greats are great because they reached people, made them feel like they were a part of it. (“That song reminds me of when I was ______.”)
I feel like I’ve got a perspective on American music that’s a little unique to what most people know, but it comes from a root that’s familiar to them. I put what’s happening in my life into a song, but I try to be aware that the purpose of this whole thing is that people all feel the same on the inside, and they feel good when they feel somebody relates specifically to them.
I need to do this. I’m 36 years old, and I don’t know how to do anything else. Do you have any idea how intimidating it is to fill out a job application with a 15 year gap in your employment history titled “self employed musician.” I went to colleg
e. I got a degree, but I used college as a diversionary tactic so I could be a musician. The education I was able to absorb along the way was invaluable, and allowed me a lot of perspective that I probably would have missed out on, but it was always secondary to music. I guess maybe that’s where a lot of that fire comes from, still trying to prove this is really what I’m supposed to be doing.
You say you feel you have a unique perspective on American music – can you expand on that?
I probably wouldn’t have said “unique perspective” if I knew I had to explain it. It’s a figure of speech musicians use that means “I’m stupid and insecure, but I want people to think I’m smart and cool.”
But I love talking about me, so here goes…
Mom was born in Liverpool, England. She’s the same age as McCartney. Poor. Working class. Went out dancing, like kids did then. Saw the Beatles like any other dozen bands that played around the clubs and dances. Beatles got popular. Brian Epstein’s family owned a lot of the record stores in Liverpool. So, my introduction to the most influential phenomenon in modern popular art and culture is this quote from my mother: “You know they got famous because their manager’s family owned all the record stores, then they got into drugs…”
So, beyond their first batch of American singles, of which my Dad had a record, I never listened to them until very late in my college career. And even then, not much. I listened to the folk records that my dad had, when I developed enough attention span to really listen to music. My dad stopped buying albums when Dylan went electric. And for some reason I just really dug that stuff. Pete Seeger, early Gordon Lightfoot, the first Dylan albums, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, etc., just made sense to me. Beautiful songs, deceptively simple accompaniment. Just people singing and playing acoustic instruments. Dad had some Leadbelly albums, and some comps with Lightnin’ Hopkins and acoustic John Lee Hooker that were just otherworldly. He had some Rock and Roll stuff, like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, etc. Through that, I read album jackets and just threw myself into learning about all these fingerstyle acoustic blues guys from the 1920s and ’30s. Willie McTell, Booker White, Tampa Red, Charlie Patton, Skip James, Gary Davis, Furry Lewis, The Memphis Jug Band. And lots of piano players, Little Brother Montgomery, Speckled Red, Roosevelt Sykes. And I just dove in, this is what I want to do. I want to play this music, the way these guys did it. No plugged in guitars, no artifice. I studied and performed this stuff and really worked hard to get to the essence of what made this stuff happen. I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to come at this stuff with modern rock music as the template or filter through which I viewed it. It didn’t sound dated or hokey to me. It sounded good. I was listening to modern, popular music with my friends, and enjoying it, but none of them played guitar or any instruments, and nobody thought the old stuff I was into was cool. I figured out almost every one the guys I liked plugged into electric guitars as soon as they were able, and I got into Muddy Waters, Elmore James, B.B. King, Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and then I started really getting into Soul music. Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge. At the same time, I was also digging on George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Conway Twitty, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams. I was still riding around in beat up cars, drinking cheap beer with my high school friends, listening to the first Metallica tapes, lots of Led Zeppelin records and stuff like that, which I still love, but I always had this secret guitar life.
Speaking of the classic bluesmen, I read that you played with Hubert Sumlin and Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin. How did that come about and what was it like to play with them?
(And speaking of wanting people to think I’m smart and cool, I feel proud of myself for recognizing all but two names you listed.)
I was hanging out with “Moonshine” Pete Schidmt, a real raw, cool harmonica player who lived down the street from a gig I had way out in the country east of Cleveland, but it was only about 90 minutes from where I was living in PA for a couple years. He’s a white guy that used to run around in the ‘hood in Cleveland back in the â€˜70s and â€˜80s, and he knew all the real cats. Pete was kind of a street guy, real tough, kind of wild, but cool. Real sweet guy. I’m sure he gave a dozen amps and mics to guys in the hood, like (Cleveland) Guitar Slim, and cats who played blues, but didn’t leave the hood. He married Slim’s niece, had some kids and was living life out in the sticks when we met. We got to be friends and he said, “I’m going to take you to see Robert, and then we’ll go play with Slim.” Robert Jr. Lockwood, who lived in Cleveland and was one of my all time heroes. I had opened some shows for Robert, and he was always really nice to me, and I’ve watched him dozens of times. He’s the most underrated influence on the sound of the guitar in the latter 20th century.
Well, Pete had a guy that would bring up jugs of moonshine from Alabama. It’s the best I’ve ever had. The old cats that didnâ€™t drink anymore would almost always take a little shine and reminisce. That Pete is a smart fella’. So, I got to sit knee to knee with Robert Jr., and pass the guitar back and forth, with the pretense of dropping off a little shine. I couldn’t believe it. Pete says, “Hey, we got to go to Slim’s birthday party. Bring this jar, don’t drink any of Slim’s, I got sick last time I drank his shit.” Got it. So, we go down in the ‘hood. It is deep. We park and walk up to this big, old, 3 story, firetrap house down near Hough, buzzer on the door(!) with a kid working the door, and walk up to the third floor, up these narrow stairs. We walk in, Pete and his wife know everybody, and it’s a big linoleum floored, wood paneled room with a little bar at one end, tables against the walls and amps and drums in the corner. They’re selling beer and shine, and they were waiting on Pete to bring another amp and get down. It was an honest to goodness juke joint, right in the city. Fun as hell. People dancin’, it was great.
So, afterwards there’s most of a jar left, Pete says, “Keep it. Give some to Hubert when you see him.”
I cornered Bob beside the stage and said, “Hey Bob, blah blah, I’d like to give Hubert some shine, don’t want to be a bad influence or wreck your show, I’ll taste some if you are worried about it, we gave some to Robert Jr., etc…” Bob said, “I’d love to have Hubert sip some and turn on the tape machine when we get home.”
“That’s great Bob, here you are.”
“You wanna sit in?”
“Why, yes I do.”
Easiest question you’ve ever been asked, right?
A juke right in the middle of Cleveland. How fantastic.
How long have you been in Nashville now? Thinking of “Leaving Ohio”, I wonder if it’s gotten any easier for you since moved down there.
Financially, it’s as tough a situation as I’ve ever been in, but I really love living here. It was tough at first, no close friends, feeling like I was just starting a whole career over. I’m getting to know more folks and my personal life with my fiancee is great, we moved here together. Pretty happy as it goes. More Ohioans are moving here all the time. I miss home though. I guess everybody does.
I had mixed feelings about Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney moving down there at first, but I understand
Speaking of the Black Keys, there was discussion on the Black Keys Fan Lounge Forum about how living in Nashville might affect the sound of the band since many people think of country music when they think of Nashville (even though I know there are a number of great rock bands based out of Nashville now). Do you see Nashville influencing your musical direction?
As far as influencing the sound, that is something to consider. It certainly has. I am among the most skilled, educated and professional musicians in the world. The guys I hire in Nashville show up prepared, on time, with the right gear, and ready to play. They are knowledgeable and confident in their abilities and able to take direction in order to make who they are working for sound the best. In Nashville, you are able to hire the right man for the job.
The terrible music that is recorded here that is marketed as country music overshadows most of what the world outside of Nashville views as “the sound of Nashville.” If you listen to shitty pop radio music, it’s shitty music. People buy it for some reason, so they keep reproducing it, usually here in town because it’s centrally located, tons of studios, tons of musicians, etc. It’s the music BUSINESS center. If you work in fashion, New York is where you go for opportunities. Nashville = Music. If you make shitty throw-away music, you’ll make shitty sounding throw-away music here. If your are happy being derivative and soulless, location can’t help that. If you care about how your record sounds, you won’t sound like a those records.
Hell yes, Nashville is influencing my musical direction. It’s influencing to me to explore my roots more deeply, be more careful with language, and be a better performer to differentiate myself from the crowd.
Speaking of your language, your songwriting is so damn honest. Is it ever hard to perform a song that is particularly personal? A song like “Two or Three” seems like it might rake you over the coals. How do you deal with that when it comes showtime?
There is enough time in the writing process, and the subsequent practice performing the material prior to recording, to be able to put distance between you and the story. I guess it comes from interpreting other really heavy duty material that you didn’t write, that you really relate to. I used to cry every time I listened to certain songs (by other artists). Now I don’t. When you read a book that you really like, in your mind, you put yourself in that story, one way or another, and you are able to deal with it, and gain catharsis from it.
Do I like talking about the really shitty situations in my personal life in the past? No. Did I come away from that particular situation you referred to in “2 or 3” with any sense of closure or feeling that I was the good guy? No. Not at all. Broken homes are awful things. Children suffer for it. It’s never completely okay.
Things just get easier to work around as you get used to them, over time.
Short answer: you get used to it. A performer performs.
I can’t recall where I read it or who said it, but someone once said something about how the best soul love songs were really just gospel songs done in a secular vein, and I know that a few of the songs that Isaac Hayes and David Porter wrote together were actual adaptations of gospel songs, right down to the titles. “The Edges” seems like that kind of song: depending on your perspective, it could be romantic or spiritual. Was that conscious? And which is it for you, romantic or spiritual?
I was really tempted to just say, “Both.”
And leave it at that, but that’s not very nice.
Haha! I almost gave you “both” as an option, but decided I should try to make you choose one.
“The Edges”: I just respond to, and feel comfortable with that type of song. The gospel influenced secular song. It has a groove that, by design, elicits emotional reaction and frees the singer to express him(her)self by providing a template of language or vocabulary that seems fresh, due to the freedom of phrasing. It works like a sonovabitch.
I don’t feel it as a conscious decision, I just get little ideas, and I flesh them out, try different grooves and make sure I’m not directly ripping something off. (Ya’know, sometimes I make sure.)
“The Edges” is about when I met my fiancee and how she made me feel like I could start to get on with having a real personal life. I was not really a very happy person. No relationships of any depth, by choice, and a little bitter. She changed that. Did not see that comin’.
I am also a sucker for that bugaloo groove and deeper voiced singers like Jerry Butler, Brook Benton, etc., and I hadn’t really ripped off either one, lately.
I gathered some questions from the Black Keys Fan Lounge forum because you have some avid fans there. One person wants to know more about “Frozen Lake”. Aside from being a lovely piece, it has a little different feel from the rest of the album. Clearly recorded live, it has a really intimate feel. Can you talk a little bit about the song and the recording of it?
Well, I don’t know what there is to say about it. We recorded it in the hallway, miked my acoustic guitar with a really nice ribbon mic, and also had it plugged into an amp in the bathroom. Maybe a little ambient mic in the room to give it a little, well, ambience. Sang it and played it. My thrift store Sam Cooke song about how it’s really easy to end up alone.
Amps in bathrooms seems to be a popular choice when recording. Give it up for shower-singing acoustics.
Another forum regular would like to know how you and Dan Auerbach met. I know Dan used to play with the Patrick Sweany Band), so was it just through the usual musician connections? You two seem like brothers from different mothers in terms of musical aesthetics and influences (and I’d wager that Dan drew some influence from you).
A friend of mine, Mike Lenz, was giving Dan some lessons and letting him sit in at gigs and said, “Hey, you should hear this kid, he’s into all this Mississippi stuff and Hounddog Taylor.” So, Dan came out with his dad, Chuck, and I invited him to sit in, he kept coming out, and eventually I just got rid of the bass player and had Dan handle the low end guitar stuff instead of a bass. Hounddog Taylor did this with his guitar player, Brewer Phillips, and he was one our mutual heroes.
I’ve showed Dan some things, guitar stuff, alternate tunings, but he was well on his way down the path, always focused. I’m older than Dan, and I was heavy into the Country Blues thing so I was the guy to ask. The Ampeg Gemini 1 that Dan plays on their first record, he found out about from me. The Gemini 1 was my first amp and still my favorite. Dan was in the band until he just got too busy with the Keys. We still hang out, now that he lives in the Nash.
While we’re on the subject of Dan, another forum regular is curious about the most memorable moment during the recording/production of Every Hour Is a Dollar Gone.
I would have to say the most memorable moment during the recording of Every Hour… is when Dan invited me to join the Black Keys as the lead singer and maracas player, and I turned them down. Just Kidding. There aren’t any real memorable things that come to mind. It’s work, you show up, you run the songs, listen back to the tracks, we spent 3 days tracking and it was done. It happens fast, there isn’t much messing around. That album was done almost 4 years ago.
Tell me about the Tiger Beats.
The Tiger Beats are my friends Ron Eoff (Cate Bros, The Band), Joe McMahan and Jimmy Lester (Webb Wilder, Los Straitjackets). We play old ’50s style blues and R&B; like Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, Bobby Blue Bland, etc. It’s my all fun, no hassle blues band.
Nice lineup. So, there’s probably no plans to make a Tiger Beats
record? Do you just play around Nashville?
We have been thinking about doing a record, and writing material for it, but focus is on my new record right now. We only play in Nashville, by design, for the time being.
What are your plans for the foreseeable future, outside of your record release shows?
Future: The Van. Covering as much of the map as possible.
Any chance of a gig in Cleveland proper?
Possibly in the spring, we may play Cleveland.
And, finally, because I tend to get my best music recommendations from musicians I love: what music have you been listening to lately?
I have really been eaten up with Joe Tex, which is nothing new, but deeeeeeeeeep soul. Nick Lowe’s The Convincer, but it’s from 2001. That album wrecked me yesterday when Joe McMahan turned me on to it. Transcendent.
I was just listening to “Skinny Legs and All” the other day. My curse as a music blogger: while everyone else is listening to newer and newer music, I keep listening to older and older music.
Well, Mr. Sweany, thank you so much. This has been such a pleasure. Congratulations on the new album and your engagement.
Thank You! I really appreciate your patience. In the last two weeks, I’ve driven back and forth to NW Arkansas twice, drove to Jacksonville, FL, and back, and played two shows and an instore, here in town. It makes all the difference in the world to actually talk about real things in an interview instead of rehashing the one sheet. Thanks.
*Patrick and I both recommend the book Soulsville U.S.A.: the Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman.
Regular Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog Jennifer is taking a well-deserved vacation, and NTSIB friend Nate Burrell was kind enough to contribute his favorite photos of 2010 from his own collection. In addition to being a hell of a nice guy, Nate is a great photographer, and we’re very pleased to feature him again.
The Black Keys:
To Summarize: this band kicks ass. They have since 2002, and they are finally getting their due respect on a wider scale in 2010. Their most recent release, Brothers, opened them up to popular outlets, due to its groove-thick gnarly sound and the hit single Tighten Up; but donâ€™t be fooled- their catalogue prior to this yearâ€™s album is disgustingly good. Get learned if you havenâ€™t already.
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three:
After successfully touring the US and the UK, as well as having been named Best New Discovery at 2010â€™s Newport Folk Festival, this St. Louis-based American Roots Music band is definitely a band to look for. Absolutely awesome to see live- energetic, tight on stage, and good musicians to the coreâ€¦ and just as good to put on your turntable or in your headphones. Check “La La Blues” from their album Riverboat Soul if you want to sing and clap along as you get on down! And keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming releases in 2011 â€“ ya heard me??!!
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound:
This Chicago Rhythm and Soul group is another hot ticket to see. Funky as you ever wanted to see on stage, a sound thatâ€™s vaguely familiar, but also fresh and its own. Youâ€™ll be swayinâ€™ and head bobbin until itâ€™s an all out get down in your own right! Good stuff for sure. Their album is dope! And they are playinâ€™ out in cities right now.
A soulful Nashville bluesman, Sweany is a name that you should look up. Having as much comfort on the 6 string as anyone out there today, and a comfortable banter with his audience â€“ you are sure to see a good set when he takes the stage. His new album Southern Drag officially drops in Feb. 2011, but heâ€™s currently out on the road touring and could be headed your way. Look him up.
If you saw these three gals and one fella in 2010, you most likely saw them in a smaller to mid-sized venueâ€¦ and Iâ€™ll bet it was packedâ€¦ and I guarantee it was rowdy! They wail live – no doubt, and will hit you with an assault of songs thatâ€™ll soak you with country punk and soulâ€¦ right after they spray their beer on ya from the stage. After basically going on a world wide tour in 2010, they just released a 7â€, and I hear that thereâ€™s also a full length to follow.
Jessica Lea Mayfield:
After a critically acclaimed debut album, Mayfield toured the world far and wide, played with various big namers of many genres and stole many hearts along the way. Her dark folk sound has a familiarity that we all can relate to and a melody that we will all want to hum or sing along with. With a major label release coming early in 2011, she will certainly be doing some amazing things this next turn of the calendar.
Indie-folk songstress Cassie Morgan had quite a successful 2010. Her band, Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, spent the majority of the year backing the release of her full length album debut Weathered Hands, Weary Eyes. Morgan (along with band mate Beth Bombara) played with a variety of well known national acts in her home city of St. Louis and embarked on a tour through the great Midwest. While ending up (deservingly) on manyâ€“o-criticâ€™s year end best of lists, look for more great things from her in 2011.
Cleveland, Ohio, rockers (and Aprilâ€™s new favorite!) mr. Gnome will melt your heart and melt your face. Creating walls of growling sonic beauty, this duo is one of the best stage bands youâ€™ll find night in and night out. That good, no question. Screaming guitar and howling female vocals, with a pulsating complex drumming style â€“youâ€™ll be standing second row before you know itâ€¦ head bobbing and all!
Detroit is known for its soul and rock-n-roll. The Sights give you just that. I wasnâ€™t familiar with this band until seeing them rip up the stage as part of the Beat â€˜Nâ€™ Soul event at St. Louisâ€™ premier venue Off Broadway, but when they stepped off stage, I was floored. They stomped, they pounded, they hollered and they won the crowd – all in the matter of 35 or 40 minutes. I will definitely make it a point to see them this year, and you may want to consider the same.
photo copyright Nate Burrell – taken for KDHX Media, St. Louis, MO
Okay, in terms of making this Cadillac Sky Week at NTSIB, this may be cheating a little, but since it’s my blog and you can’t stop me…
Dan Auerbach – of Akron, Ohio’s the Black Keys, if you don’t know by now – loves music. This may seem an obvious thing to say about a musician, but it’s more true of some than others. To quote the man himself from his Nonesuch feature page, “I’m pretty obsessed with making music and with recording, I’m always thinking about it. It drives my family crazy. But it’s what I do.” Auerbach likes being on both sides of the recording console and in his “spare” time, he lends his help, and his home studio, to a long list of bands. Here is a gathering of Auerbach-produced songs from bands ranging in vibe from bluegrass to blues to punk.
Cadillac Sky – Nashville, Tennessee
Obviously, we here at NTSIB love these guys and encourage you, again, to pick up their new album, Letters in the Deep, and catch them live if at all possible.
Buffalo Killers – Cincinnati, Ohio
Hacienda – San Antonio, Texas
You might also recognize these guys as the Fast Five, the name they used when touring as Auerbach’s support band on his solo tour. They’ll be in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Beachland Ballroom on June 19 when they open for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
SSM – Detroit, Michigan
Patrick Sweany – Nashville, Tennessee
The Ettes – Nashville, Tennessee
Radio Moscow – Story City, Iowa
Brimstone Howl – Omaha, Nebraska
Jessica Lea Mayfield – Kent, Ohio
Jessica is gearing up to release a third album, and the early word fro
m her brother David is that it is mind-blowing. She’ll be opening for the Black Keys when they play Nautica in Cleveland on July 24.