A Nashville artist who is more steeped in the blues and soul than many of his townsfolk, Patrick Sweany gets down and dirty on Ancient Noise, an album which saw him head to Memphis to record in Sam Phillips’ Recording Studios which has been recently refurbished and which is popping up in several sleeve note mentions of late. Produced by Matt Ross-Spang (who helmed Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter) Ancient Noise is steeped in southern styles, raucous blues and swampy rock numbers the deep filling while there’s a delicate dollop of Memphis country adding some sweetness to the whole.
Sweany lurches into the album with the gutbucket kick of Old Time Ways, an evil sounding swelter of slide guitars before diving even deeper into the Devil’s music with the growling Up and Down where he sounds as if Howling Wolf’s spirit was inhabiting Tom Wait’s larynx while the guitars and percussion clatter around like a pneumatic drill let loose inside a scrap yard. A thrilling start to the album.
There’s a brief respite as Sweany allows piano player Charles Hodges (Al Green’s go to keyboard man) to lead the band on Country Loving, a song on which Sweany mines seams previously explored by the likes of Dan Penn and Donny Fritts. This more delicate side of Sweany is further explored in the shimmering slow burn of Steady where the guitars quietly fizz away like distant fireworks as he sings of the ties which unite his relationships. However the pull of the Memphis mojo drags him back into swampy waters for the remainder of the album. No Way No How is a brilliantly muddy foray into syncopated southern rock a la Alan Toussaint or Little Feat and its repeated on the slinky grooves of Cry of Amédé, a song based on a true tale of a Creole musician beaten up by a vigilante mob after a white woman loaned him a handkerchief to mop his brow. Get Along hits a more soulful groove with Hodges’ fluid organ keys burbling over a propulsive beat with Sweany’s vocals supplemented by some gospel harmonies and Play Around is reminiscent of sixties Brill building pop forays into southern soul culture.
Ancient Noise is perhaps Sweany’s most rounded album so far and is heartily recommended.