The words “Ohio” and “blues” certainly call to mind the Black Keys, probably the Buckeye State’s most famous sons in recent years. But blues does a brisk business in Ohio, and Patrick Sweany is proof of that. The guitarist from Massillon has been steadily releasing music since 1999, though he made his name on the stage. Sweany taught himself how to fingerpick like the blues giants in his dad’s record collection–Leadbelly and Junior Kimbrough come to mind–and soon started playing coffeehouses and small clubs. He formed a backing band and started mixing together all the sounds he absorbed as a kid: rock, blues, punk, and folk.
And like the bluesmen of the past, Sweany was excited to pass on his knowledge to others. In the early 2000s, a young guitarist named Dan Auerbach started coming around to Sweany’s Monday night residency in Kent, Ohio. The young gun soon joined the band for good, but it wasn’t long before he was playing recordings of his own group–the nascent Black Keys–to Sweany. “I heard the rough mixes of their first record in his car during a set break,” Sweany says. “I told him ‘please help train your replacement.'”
Their friendly relationship led to an opening slot for the Black Keys years later, yet Sweany is versatile enough to support a whole range of artists, from the swamp-pop of the Gourds to Wayne “The Train” Hancock’s red-hot honky-tonk. His chameleon-like guitar playing is the main draw, but that’s not to discount his dynamic songwriting. On July 16, Sweany will release Close To The Floor (via Austin’s Nine Mile Records), an album that echos with the ghosts of the blues’ past. “Working For You” is a spare, humid travelogue that packs a lot into its three-minute running time: Sweany’s slashing guitar, fiery voice, and a hell of a backbeat.
Sweany will be giving this and other songs a workout on Thursday, June 20 with a free show at Lustre Pearl.