ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
Close to the Floor, by Patrick Sweany
They say that great art is often the result of pain and adversity. It is a blessing and a curse. A blessing that we get to share in the work that results, a curse that the artist’s suffering lies at the root of the creative process.
Such is the case with Patrick Sweany’s latest release, which finds the artist coping with the premature loss of two family members. He goes through a range of emotions across the album’s ten tracks, from coping with the grief and grasping for an explanation to reflecting on his own failings and seeking strength for the future.
Sweany’s music has always been based in the blues and it serves him well here. “Deep Water” is a restrained blues song, with Sweany’s expressive voice and guitar seeking to provide reassurance to those around him. Album closer “Terrible Years” is steeped in the delta blues as Sweany tries to look ahead. “Memory in the past tense I need time for my mind to build up a fence,” he pleads, “won’t you pass on by me terrible years.”
Tracks like “Slippin” and “Bus Station” showcase Sweany’s soulful side. The former is a gentle ballad that finds the singer in a reflective mood, his expressive guitar matching the emotion in his voice. The latter has a steady dance groove as Sweany sings:
Phone calls from policemen are never a good sign
Somebody in trouble, somebody is cryin’
You never are ready for what’s on that line,
Phone calls from policemen are never a good sign
Yet even through the darkness, Sweany’s outsized personality and enthusiasm shines through on tracks like “Just One Night.” The song swings with a spirited Southern soul vibe that finds the singer, figuratively and literally, seeking a moment of joy to escape the pain.
Audio Download: Patrick Sweany, “Just One Night”
My Favorite Picture of You, by Guy Clark
I wasn’t expecting to like this release as much as I do. It’s not that thought that I would dislike it, but rather that it far exceeded my expectations. I supposed that I shouldn’t be surprised, given Clark’s reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter with a 40 year career. His wise and simply stated perspectives capture meaningful life moments with simplicity and grace.
The stand-out track, amidst an album full of them, is “My Favorite Picture of You.” Written for his late wife of 40 years, the song beautifully captures the ups and downs of a relationship. The singer professes his everlasting love while confessing that his favorite picture is one of his lover when she was angry.
Clark has a wry sense of humor that permeats his songs. The gentle “Hell Bent on a Heartache” finds the singer examining the quest of love despite the many inevitable failures that occur along the way.
I’m hell bent on a heartache
I should know better but I guess I don’t
I keep on learning the hard way
Every time I turn around I make the same mistake
“Good Advice” opens with the singer observing “In one ear and out the other, just like talking to your mother.” He proceeds to offer up one of those simple truisms — “the funny thing about good advice is everybody’s got some” — before getting to the punch line. “Good advice is hard to take, bad habits are hard to break,” he confides, “good sense is hard to make, good advice is hard to take.” He gentle delivery makes the lesson go down easy, kind of like like getting your medicine delivered with some candy or ice cream.
The lone cover is Clark’s ambling stroll through Lyle Lovett’s “The Waltzing Fool.” Sorry Lyle, but Guy just staked his claim to your song. Somehow I don’t think Lovett minds.
)See Chip’s take on Guy Clark’s latest release here.)
Audio Stream: Guy Clark, “Cornmeal Waltz”
Breakaway Speed, Mando Saenz (from the Carnival Recording Company release Studebaker)
The relaxed feel of Saenz’s songwriting makes for the perfect summer soundtrack. I love how the vulnerability of his voice blends beautifully with the slightly rough-hewn edge of the musical accompaniment. The combination gives this song – and the entire release – tremendous charm and authenticity.
Audio Download: Mando Saenz, “Breakaway Speed”
The Corner Man, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (from the Bloodshot Records release Dig Thy Savage Soul)
Singer Barrence Whitfield has traveled a wandering musical path, moving through R&B, soul and country. He returns to his fiery roots with the Savages, the band with which he launched his career about thirty years ago. Dig Thy Savage Soul finds Barrence at his finest: shouting, wailing and, with the Savages, rocking like there is no tomorrow. This is some hardcore rhythm and blues. Heck, you can feel the sweat dripping off the musicians and their instruments as they play.
Audio Stream: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, “The Corner Man”
Feelin’ Low Down, Andrew Duhon (from the self-released The Moorings)
New Orleans musician Duhon has a mighty fine soulfulness to his voice. Pair it with the foot-stompin’ goodness of this track and you’ve got a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Dig a bit deeper on Duhon’s latest release and you’ll be rewarded with songs like the gentle pop of “Evelyn” and the somber ballad “Feel It In My Soul.”
Audio Download: Andrew Duhon, “Feelin’ Low Down”
Rattle Trucks, Rusty Truck (from the Crosseyed Music release Kicker Town)
Famed photographer Mark Seliger paints a melancholy picture with his voice and guitar on this track from his band’s second release. “Rattle trucks pull down dirt roads, carry these loads,” he sings, “And I’m riding into wide open arms.” Elsewhere on their latest, the group blends a bit of pop with a bit of honky-tonk with pleasing results.
Audio Download: Rusty Truck, “Rattle Trucks”
Red & White & Blue & Gold, Aoife O’Donovan (from the Yep Roc Records release Fossils)
O’Donovan takes a break from the acoustic folk and bluegrass of Crooked Still to serve up a collection of dreamy pop songs on her debut solo release. Her voice is as striking as ever, set against an evocative musical backdrop.
Audio Stream: Aoife O’Donovan, “Red & White & Blue & Gold”
Try Me, Grant Langston (from the self-released Working Until I Die)
Originally from Alabama but now calling LA home, Langston adds a dash of rock to his Bakersfield country sound. The cracklin’ country beats of his latest release will have you hankering to see him perform live. Until that happens, flip that sign on your door to “gone honky-tonkin’ and fire up this album.
Audio Download: Grant Langston, “Try Me”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.