Sound check: Sweany comes home for Kent festival

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Nashville based singer/songwriter/guitarist Patrick Sweany returns to his Northeast Ohio roots with a show at The Kent Heritage Festival on Saturday.n (Photo by Nate Burrell)

On Saturday, Kent will hold its 18th Annual Kent Heritage Festival at venues downtown and nearby with all-day live music from a bevy of artists and bands.

One of those artists will be singer/songwriter/guitarist and native Massillonian Patrick Sweany, who will perform at the Zephyr Pub on Saturday afternoon. Sweany moved from Akron to Nashville five years ago in part because Nashville is loaded with dedicated road dog musicians willing and able to do it the old-fashioned way by packing up the van and touring for long stretches.

Sweany’s music encompasses delta blues, strains of country and bluegrass, early rock ’n’ roll and some old-school R&B. He hasn’t played in Northeast Ohio since last winter, and Saturday’s show will be his first local show with his current quartet of Dillon Napier, Shawn Supra and the fairly recent addition of second guitarist Zach Setchfield — allowing Sweany, always a gregarious and engaging frontman and guitarist, to really let loose on stage.

“It's been great because it really opens up a lot of room for me to entertain,” he said. “Plus, I really like how it improves the dynamics of the band. There are some twin guitar things you can do or if I’m holding down chords I can concentrate on singing. … I really love having an extra piece to the band.”

Sweany will also be bringing new music from his sixth album, Close to the Floor, to be released on July 16 on his longtime label Nine Mile Records.

He’s been touring behind the record for months but Ohio fans will get their first taste of the new tunes at the upcoming show at his old stomping grounds, the Zephyr Pub, and another show on Friday night at Adelphia Hall in Marietta.

Sweany said as much as he loves living and working in Nashville, he always looks forward to coming back to Ohio.

“Home is always home and it will always be home. The Zephyr, we have such a great relationship with that place, and we have a club date in Marietta which has always been a great town for us since the beginning from years and years ago when I first started playing shows outside of Stark and Summit counties,” he said.

As a songwriter, Sweany has always written first-person, personal stories from his point of view. Lyrically, the 10 tracks on Close to the Floor are his heaviest opening with the simmering funk groove of Working for You, a song about the frustrations of touring inspired by a low budget tour and a particularly terrible experience with a club in Philadelphia.

Deeper in the album, Sweany touches on personal tragedy in several songs inspired by a terrible year in which the family of his wife of two years lost two immediate young members, inspiring songs such as the mournful ballad The Island.

“I’ve always kind of liked to serve it up raw, but this is definitely… grown up stuff. My wife and her family had a hell of a year, and this is how we deal with it, or how I deal with it,” he said.

But while Sweany was working through the pain by writing songs as personal catharsis, after sharing early versions of some of the tunes with his wife and family, he realized his duty to his muse was not as important as his duty to his family.

“The story involves a lot more people so I’m a lot more responsible for what I have to say and how it affects them as well. It’s easy for me to holler and cry and tell the stories because I get this release out of it by being a performer … It’s very cathartic and very therapeutic for me,” he continued.

“But my wife and her family don’t get that option and that honestly was a difficult thing. There were some lyrical revisions, because I realized I wasn’t being fair or responsible in the amount of personal pain that I revealed. I always think the true story is always the best story, but it’s really, really selfish of me to make my wife and my family relive the worst day or the worst 10 minutes or the worst 30 seconds of their entire lives every time I go to work. …

“Their privacy and their well-being is the most important thing to me. I would’ve scrapped this entire album if I thought it hurt them,” he said.

Musically, Close to the Floor gives fans what they expect, well-crafted guitar-driven tunes with Sweany’s emotional blues-infused tenor.

There’s some straight ahead vocal/guitar call-and-response blues on Every Night Every Day, fuzzy electric slide blues on the tense Every Gun, which recalls the sound of Sweany’s former second guitarist Dan Auerbach who also produced two of Sweany’s records. Sweany even dips into the classic Motown sound in the shuffling groove of Just One Night. An underrated ballad writer, Sweany offers a quiet 1970s style R&B slow jam on Slippin’.

Sweany said playing the new songs with the new band has produced some of the best shows of his career, and he’s really looking forward to playing in front of some old friends. He added that he has a warm fuzzy place in his heart for the Kent Heritage Festival.

“Yeah, home is always great. And especially Kent Fest. It’s one of the parties we lead our year up to. We let it all hang out.”

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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