Artist: Caleb Sweazy
Album: Lucky Or Strong
Our Verdict: 7/10
Release date: 28th April
Find it at: Blue Barrel Records
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“A soulful brand of blues-inflected Americana, Lucky Or Strong is a subtly impressive affair.”
Somewhere there is a movie being made that is just crying out to be soundtracked by Caleb Sweazy. Not only does the singer and songwriter’s name sound like he should be bedecked in fedora and full length coat, tommy gun secreted by his side, but his soulful brand of blues-inflected Americana comes steeped in the kind of jazzy heritage that would blend easily in to the milieu of 30’s and 40’s American night clubs.
Indeed, as you listen to Sweazy’s Blue Barrel Records debut, Lucky Or Strong, you can almost hear the chink of the shot glasses and see the haunted looks of women and men who are – consciously or otherwise – asking themselves whether their luck has just run out, or whether they will prove strong enough to make it to tomorrow.
“I like things that are kind of bittersweet, that are melancholy but not overt – not overwhelmingly sad,” says the man himself of his work. “It is so much of who I am as well – I just see the balance in things. To me, that’s kind of the sweet spot of music. The songs I’m most drawn to from other artists are the kind that make me happy and sad at the same time.”
And that’s exactly the sort of twilight space in which Lucky Or Strong resides.
“This is not my American dream” sings Sweazy on the opening track of the album, having been “…busted down to nickels when I didn’t have a dime I could hold.” And yet the hard-won lyric is offset by a swaggering piano motif and percussive shuffle that suggest the smile, nod and a wink of someone who has found happier times.
The picked guitar and woozy accordion of “My Love” tell a poetic story drawn from childhood, utilising biblical imagery and leaps of imagination that lend an added sense of drama and weight. Elsewhere, “Tattoed Teardrop Streak” conjures images of a Twin Peaks-esque, Lynchian waking nightmare, or perhaps the brawny, bloody Bayou depicted in the likes of True Blood, it’s slow staccato guitar and brushed drums creating a tense and humid atmosphere in which the protagonist is “Drifting in a dream, a silent memory, that’s hidden deep inside you.”
Recorded at Music+Arts Studio in Memphis with some of that town’s finest musicians (Jesse Dakota, Logan Hanna, Rick Steff and John C. Stubblefield amongst them), Lucky Or Strong is a subtly impressive affair. Its themes are many and strong and run through it like the blood of a pedigree. There’s an energy and freshness here that make it feel like Sweazy has somehow only just arrived, yet there is the wisdom and deep knowledge of an old soul in evidence too.
One suspects that Caleb Sweazy has both called on inner-strength and stumbled across a little luck in order to make a record this fine. Here’s to his continued supply of both.
You can find Caleb Sweazy at his official Facebook page, and listen to the title track of Lucky Or Strong via the stream below: