Nashville Beats: Hot Blues from Patrick Sweany

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photo:  (c) 2015 Dave Creaney

Patrick Sweany likes the spaces in between.

On a given night (or on a given album) he’ll swing through blues, folk, soul, bluegrass, maybe some classic 50’s rock, or a punk speedball. He’s a musical omnivore, devouring every popular music sound of the last 70 years, and mixing ’em all together seamlessly into his own stew. Yet, the one thing that most people notice about Patrick isn’t his ability to copy – it’s his authenticity. Like his heroes, artists like Bobby “Blue” Bland, Doug Sahm, Joe Tex, Patrick somehow manages to blend all of these influences into something all his own.

It’s no wonder that as a kid he immersed himself in his dad’s extensive record collection: 60’s folk, vintage country, soul, and, of course, blues. Patrick spent hours teaching himself to fingerpick along to Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and other folk-blues giants.

In his late teens, Patrick began playing the clubs and coffeehouses around Kent, OH. He quickly gained a reputation for the intricate country blues style he was developing: part Piedmont picking, part Delta slide – with an equally impressive deep, smooth vocal style.

But Patrick wouldn’t stay in the acoustic world for long. His love of 50’s era soul and rock fused with the adrenaline-soaked garage punk revival happening throughout the Rust Belt pushed him to form a band.

After 6 critically acclaimed records (two produced by longtime collaborator Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys), Patrick has expanded his touring radius to 49 states and Europe. He’s played premiere festivals (Newport Folk Fest, Merlefest, Montreal Jazz Fest, Telluride Blues & Brews) and supported international acts such as The Black Keys, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Wood Brothers, Hot Tuna, and others on tour.

His latest record, Daytime Turned To Nighttime, comes out in September 2015. It was recorded in his adopted community of E. Nasheville, TN and features contributions from long-time collaborator and producer Joe McMahan (Allsion Moorer, Webb Wilder), Ron Eoff (Cate Brothers, Levon Helm), Bryan Owings (Tony Joe White, Solomon Burke), among others. For Daytime Sweany took a fairly different approach than his usual raw, intense blues sound, opting for more subtle textures and playing. Seminal 70’s records by Bill Withers, Bobbie Gentry and Bobby Charles & The Band provide the sonic blueprint, while Sweany wraps his trademark baritone and impeccable acoustic slide work around songs of longing, redemption and growing up.

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Discover Pop Singer From Down Under: Gordi

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On the farm in rural Australia where Sophie Payten – AKA Gordi – grew up, there’s a paddock that leads down to a river. A few hundred metres away up the driveway of the property named “Alfalfa” sits another house, which belongs to her 93-year-old grandmother. The rest, she says, “is just beautiful space. And what else would you fill it with if not music?”

And so she did, first tinkling away in her hometown of Canowindra (population 2,381) on the out of tune piano her mother had been given as a wedding present, and then on the acoustic guitar she got for her 12th birthday. As it turned out though, space wasn’t a luxury she’d be afforded for long. At the school she went to just after that same birthday, she shared a dorm room with 26 other girls, listening to Aled Jones on her Discman at night to drown out their chatter. Not that she minded. “It was like a massive sleepover every night,” she says. And besides, her love of music didn’t take long to follow her there.

Gordi’s first foray into songwriting came in the form of performances at the school’s weekly chapel. She’d tell her friends they were written by other artists to ensure they gave honest feedback – though given she was pulling lines from One Tree Hill for lyrics about experiences she was yet to actually have, that feedback wasn’t always glowing. It wasn’t until she started writing about what was happening around her, the friendships she was building and, as is inevitable in the tumult of growing up, breaking, that the chrysalis of the music she’s making now – a brooding, multi-layered blend of electronica and folk, with lyrics that tend to avoid well-trodden paths – began to form. “I often find that writing about platonic relationships,” she says, “can be a great deal more powerful than writing about romantic ones.”

“Heaven I Know,” the first taste of Gordi’s debut album Reservoir, is an example of just that. With the breathy chant of “123” chugging along beneath the song’s sparse melody and melancholic piano chords, “Heaven I Know” gazes at the embers of a fading friendship. “Cause I got older, and we got tired,” she sings, as synthetic twitches, sweeping brass and distorted samples bubble to the surface, “Heaven I know that we tried.”

“I have a really close friend, and she moved to New York last April,” explains Gordi, “and I was absolutely devastated. I sort of don’t have anyone else like that in my life. A few months in, it was just getting so hard, we both had so much going on. Amongst all this, I had a really vivid dream – not that we fought dramatically, I simply got older, and we stopped calling each other, stopped writing to each other and we slowly grew apart. I was struck by the tragedy and simplicity of it and how it happens to everybody at various stages of life. With a friendship, you almost throw more at it than you would a romantic partner, because when a friendship breaks it’s so much more heart-breaking. So it was sort of like we’d thrown everything at it, and in this alternate reality that I dreamed about, we just gave up.”

The ramifications of loss ripple throughout the album, which the 24-year-old wrote and recorded in Wisconsin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, New York and Sydney during snatched moments while finishing a six year long medicine degree and international touring commitments. Payten produced two of the tracks herself (“Heaven I Know” & “I’m Done”), and co-produced the rest alongside Tim Anderson (Solange, Banks, Halsey), Ben McCarthy, Ali Chant (Perfume Genius, PJ Harvey) and Alex Somers (Sigur Ros).

“Long Way,” on which her contralto vocals are layered on top of each other as the sound of a ticking clock lurks underneath, begs of someone, “Can you hear my voice in your bones again? Can you be with me like you were back then?” It’s the first track on the album, and the last song she wrote in the green notebook her parents gave her when she was still at school. There’s a sense of loss too on “I’m Done,” though this time it’s something she’s come to accept. “It feels good to say I’m over you / and mean it more and more each time. / Lock my secrets behind open doors / ‘cause without you I’ll do just fine.” It’s about as close to a stripped-back acoustic song as Gordi’s willing to create, though it sits comfortably alongside beat-heavy electronic numbers. Her songs shift and mutate just as you think you’ve got a hold of them. You’re as likely to hear the squeak of her finger sliding down a guitar fret as you are a shuddering sample, and an organic trumpet sound will be injected with a jagged vocal loop.

But it’s not just loss which comes under the microscope in Reservoir. More so, it’s the journey that particular theme takes when aboard the vehicle of time. The interaction of time and loss is explored throughout, starting with album opener “Long Way”. “Myriad”, a delicately layered track which reaches a drumless climax, delves further, “Dissolve your sorrow / In my skin and bone / Take my tomorrow / It is yours to own”. Even the infectious single “On My Side” questions the prolonging of grievances because of a hesitation to communicate, which ultimately stems from a fear of loss. “Can We Work It Out” similarly opens up on inner conflict.

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Boiled down, the running thread of the album is its lyrics, the importance and impact of which cannot be understated. “Lyrics to me are everything,” says Gordi. “Music is kind of what encases this story that you’re trying to tell. The music is obviously what makes people fall in love with a song first, but what eventually speaks to people, whether they know it or not, is the actual words that are being said.” Gordi’s lyrics are stark, honest and soul-searching, which are elevated by the album’s intricate and careful musical arrangements. Like the contemporary artists such as Fleet Foxes, Beth Orton and Laura Marling as well as “the trifecta” of Billy Joel, Carole King and James Taylor that she listened to with her mum growing up – she’s unafraid to sit in contemplative melancholy. It’s what the album title is about. And in the contemplative melancholy remains a conviction that manifests itself through Gordi’s memorable melodies and ambitious production, mastered by pioneers like Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens and Sufjan Stevens.

“The name Reservoir, it’s that thing that you can’t describe, that space that anxious people would probably live their life in. It’s actually an expression my friend and I use. If I’m really down one day, I’ll say, ‘Oh I’m a bit in the reservoir today’. You’re mulling everything over, and you’re sitting in all these thoughts and feelings. In order to be able to write a song I need to go to that place, but I couldn’t live a functional life if I spent all my time in there.”

Writing music, in fact, is the way Gordi lifts herself out of the Reservoir. “Writing music has always been and will remain my therapy, my process and my way of communicating,” she explains. “I don’t write songs by someone else’s prescription, I write to fill my own need. I get this tightness in my chest, and nothing will make it go away other than trying to write lyrics or sitting down at a piano and playing it, and it’s like a medicine. If I have a good session of that, then that tightness and that weight just totally lifts. It just centers me, and gets the things that are riddled through my mind out on paper. And then I can leave them there.”

 

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West Coast Beats: Sisterly Harmonies From Portland’s Joseph (the band)

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Joseph is an American folk band from Portland, Oregon.  The band is made up of three sisters, Natalie Closner Schepman and Allison and Meegan Closner.

Their first album, Native Dreamer Kin, was self-released in early 2014. Their sophomore album I’m Alone, No You’re Not was produced by Mike Mogis and was released in the summer of 2016 by ATO Records.   I’m Alone, No You’re Not debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and remained at the top of the chart for two weeks.

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Their first single, “White Flag“, premiered on NPR’s Songs We Love and reached #1 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart in October 2016.

This summer Joseph have been blowing away the the summer music festival circuit including Newport, Lollapalooza and Bumbleshoot.

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Meet Singer/Songwriter Caitlin Canty

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Caitlin Canty delivers her songs with a dusky alto and a 1930’s Recording King guitar. Her breakout record Reckless Skyline features an all-star band on twelve songs that veer nimbly between country ballads and straight-up rockers, dark blues and sparsely arranged folk. Produced by Jeffrey Foucault, Reckless Skyline garnered glowing praise from NPR, among others. The San Francisco Chronicle lauded Canty’s, “casually devastating voice and unshakable poise,” and her “easy way with folk, blues and country motifs.”

Both on the road and on her records, Canty creates a sound that harnesses the grit and spark at the very heart of American music, tempered with a voice both haunting and distinct.

Lost in the Valley, a five-song companion to Reckless Skyline, is now available. Listen and purchase Lost in the Valley here 

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West Coast Beats: Oakland’s Surf Rock Band Babewatch

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Comprised of guitarists/singers Peter Kegler and Callum Beals, bassist Chase Eiseman, and drummer Eli Lyons, Babewatch has been described as “energetic, almost spooky psych rock” by The Bay Bridged. From folkloric odes likes “Brian,” to the reflective ennui of “No Sleep” and “Wasted Time,” the subject matter of their newest album has become more refined with their evolution.

Over the past years, Babewatch has played extensively in California and toured throughout the West Coast. They’ve supported acts such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, La Luz, Diarrhea Planet, and many others. While they still retain the surf tinged sound of their early days in Santa Cruz, their newer sound has become more influenced by the garage and post-punk sounds of the Ea​st Bay Area. W​asted Time, an eleven song LP, is the culmination of this.

You can preview and purchase their latest, Wasted Time over at BANDCAMP.

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Americana Artist Allison Pierce Goes Solo

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Allison Pierce was born in Birmingham, Alabama to a family of creative individuals. In their teens, Allison and sister Catherine formed the acclaimed duo The Pierces who released five full-length albums, most recently on Polydor/Universal.

In 2007 Rolling Stone magazine named the sisters as a Breaking Artist to watch. The duo’s songs have been placed in various network TV shows including the song “Secret” which has been the theme song for the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars for the run of the show. In live performance the sisters have toured as the supporting act for Coldplay and Lissie among others. Allison Pierce now steps into the spotlight as a solo artist with her solo debut Year of the Rabbit.

This album feels like the most important creative outpouring of my life so far,” Allison Pierce says of her solo debut, Year of the Rabbit (Sony Masterworks), produced by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne, Paul McCartney). “It feels like the most genuine expression of who I am, musically and personally.”

The new album is Allison’s first as a solo artist, following two decades of recording and performing with her sister Catherine as The Pierces. The duo’s five albums and constant tours brought them critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase, especially in Britain. But as the years passed, each longed to express herself unfettered by the other, and in August 2015, The Pierces decided to take a break, whereupon the sisters launched solo careers.

“When you’re in a group with another person, there’s always compromise,” says Allison. “There were amazing times, and there were some really challenging times—probably some of the most challenging times in my life. You know that saying from Proverbs, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’? That’s what it felt like. Now, we’re both free to finally express exactly who we are.

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A Sound Recommendation: Austin Rockers Swimming With Bears

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Prior to releasing their debut EP, the Austin based four-piece, Swimming With Bears, had been working tirelessly to hone in on their unique alternative soul sound. Following a run of residencies in several Texas cities, as well as appearances at some of Austin’s most renowned venues, the band was invited to open for Weezer and Panic! At The Disco in early June. With a newly released, self-titled EP, the band is set to embark on their first ever national tour this summer.

The EP, which features lead single “Shiver and Crawl,” was produced by Matt Novesky (Blue October).

Swimming With Bears consists of Joe Perry (vocals/bass), Alec Conte (guitar), Jon Kerr (guitar) and Ryan Hannasch (drums).

“Releasing this EP is a long awaited dream come true for us as a band and we’re excited for people to finally hear it. Especially ‘Shiver and Crawl’”, says Perry. “A lot of our music is about the good times, or about love both gained and lost, but ‘Shiver and Crawl’ takes a more serious look at how we all struggle. We had no idea that we would be releasing it in the wake of all the recent tragedies, but we think it carries a message that people really need to hear and can relate to.”

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