Patrick Sweany Howls the Blues, Perseveres on “Up And Down”

Photo by Michael Weintraub

This Friday, Patrick Sweany will release Ancient Noise, an album that mines the American blues vernacular in an effort to find “something new and relevant to the time we’re living in.”

Sweany, a Nashville-based artist by way of Ohio, recorded the album in Memphis at the fabled Sam Phillips Recording studio, with Matt Ross-Spang pulling duty as producer and Charles Hodges of Al Green’s band on keys. 

Below, you can hear one of the album’s more raucous cuts, “Up and Down.” It’s a song the artist calls his “hanging-in-there” anthem. It’s also a tribute of sorts to Howlin’ Wolf, one of Sweany’s long-time musical heroes.

“Lyrically, the song speaks on having to adapt to the changing times … to stay in the game and be an effective performer,” Sweany says.

[The lyric] ‘they say the world’s in a tangle, I’ve been spaghetti farming all my life’ is the acceptance that a career in music has always been a risky, challenging and confusing way to go about things. You just get used to it, and carry on, doing what you think is best despite the peaks and valleys. I don’t know where I came up with the term ‘spaghetti farm.’ I usually use it to describe hopelessly tangled instrument cables, but it just seemed the right choice to describe the position I’m in. You just own it and deal with it. It becomes part of the job.  

The performance style of the song is pretty central to the theme of the lyric. The song needs to be sung with everything I’ve got. I couldn’t croon it and serve the song. It’s got to be hollered out loud! I guess it’s also my homage to Howlin’ Wolf. He left it all out there, every time, until the day he died. So powerful. That just inspired the hell out of me. The last verse is about accepting aging, still having to try and climb that ladder, and get to work. And not complain …”

Listen below.