Ohio bluesman Patrick Sweany will bring his old-school sound to The Lariat Thursday, bringing up-and-coming Colorado bluesman AJ Fullerton with him.
A onetime bandmate of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Sweany’s love of the greasy grooves of folk blues and early rock n’ roll, not to mention his soulful howling voice will appeal to fans of blues revivalist groups like the Keys.
Sweany recorded his most recent album “Ancient Noise” in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording, the studio built in the 1970s by Phillips, the founder of Sun Records.
“It’s like Santa’s workshop for rock n’ roll,” Sweany said. “The piano that Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee (Lewis) recorded on is right there in the room, it’s never been anywhere else. Everything’s relatively unchanged. So it’s a sort of time capsule place with state-of-the-art recording technology.”
To know the blues is to know a piece of American history that has been elevated to the realm of myth, and for Sweany, the son of a bluegrass and folk musician, being in the midst of that history “(made) your blood run cold. It was very inspiring, but it was actually terrifying at first.
“It was inspiring to think about it, then you walk in the place,” he said. “It’s a real, living, working thing where all these giants that are all storybook characters in your mind … Jerry Phillips, the son of the man who basically invented rock n’ roll, who learned to dance from Elvis, is the guy unlocking the door. Jerry Phillips is probably the coolest person living today. He was literally there at the beginning of when things were described as cool.”
That anxiety subsides after about 15 minutes, though, and after that “It’s the most comfortable place to make a record in the world. It’s one of the greatest environments that a musician can perform in.”
Producer Matt-Ross Spang emphasized a cohesive working relationship between the session band that focused on the groove, Sweany said.
Growing up in Ohio, Sweany didn’t encounter much in the way of a music scene until he went off to college at Kent State University. There he encountered the burgeoning rock scene of the 1990s, seeing Nirvana on their last tour and Queens of the Stone Age’s first.
He would play acoustic blues in coffee shops, always in the traditional fingerstyle, inspired by the records collected by his father, a man who “stopped collecting records when Dylan went electric.”
He knew the legendary names of blues – B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightin’ Hopkins, but the record Sweaney says changed his view of music was “The Country Blues” by John Hammond Jr.
“On the record he’s playing delta blues and Chuck Berry songs on acoustic guitar and I was like ‘This is amazing,’” Sweany said. “I was hearing a lot of blues records and a lot of stuff by this first generation of guys, all African-American, and I’m just a weird white kid from Ohio, and then there’s this guy who is doing good versions of these songs, he’s honest and doesn’t seem like he’s putting on an act, and he’s obviously emotionally involved in this music … and he was a cool-looking white dude who looked like he was from New York,” Sweany said.
In his young mind, that was what Sweany needed for the idea of being a blues player to stop being a storybook idea and come down to his reality.
“It was the passion in the songs on this record and the fact that he wasn’t some giant of history. He was still alive. I could look him up. He had a name in a phone book,” Sweany said.
A.J. Fullerton, who grew up in Montrose and has been touring since 2012, names Sweany as one of the musicians who first shaped his interest in the blues.
Fullerton was 18 first met Sweany when he opened for his band.
Fullerton was about 14 when his father gave him an electric guitar to keep him occupied and out of trouble. About a year later, Fullerton was gigging.
“I was a record collector long before I started playing,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of older-type things. I’ve never been cutting-edge. I’m kind of a bad millennial. So that’s why I was always attracted to those older recordings.
“Then when I wore those out, I started to find the people out there who were taking that older sound and revamping it. And a great example of that would be Pat Sweany.
“He’s one of those guys who I believe is doing a great job of taking that older style of playing and giving it new life and bringing it back into relevance.”