Album review: ADAM SWEET – Small Town Thinking

NEO Music

Adam Sweet’s full debut was released at the end of 2013 to favourable reactions. It is easy to see why. This is a sublime, often laid back album of confidence, competence and genuine talent.

Only in his mid-twenties, Adam has enough soul and whisky soaked twang in his voice to pass off for a careworn Delta Bluesman. That his origins are closer to the Exe estuary in Devon  is something of a surprise.

The album kicks off with the mid-paced grower ‘At Times Like These’. In many ways, this is typical of the material here. There is a strong acoustic spine and it builds with lines of sharper electric guitar and hints of slide. But nothing is too complicated or overworked.

The arrangements of the (mostly) very strong material allow the music to lay down an intoxicating foundation for Sweet’s expressive voice. The stories he weaves are the hallmark of the album. ‘At Times Like These’ is a proper drinking song; ‘The Best Thing She Ever Had’ is a ride on love’s fickle roller-coaster; and ‘Doing Alright’ recounts wistful tales of strength in the teeth of adversity.

Sweet has been performing since he was 15 and spent a year co-writing most of this album’s material with singer/songwriter Steve Black. It was recorded in Devon by Alan West and Nashville by Thomm Jutz. The production has one reaching for adjectives like mellow, accomplished and rootsy.

This isn’t a collection of firework solos or power blues work outs. Even the most set-piece blues-rock ballad on the album, ‘Evening’, displays a control and restraint that underlines its strength. On the longer guitar passages, Sweet eschews histrionics in favour of a flow that is heartfelt and involved.

There is strength in depth too. The harp that would rip your chest open on the skiffle-influenced ‘The Next Man After Me’; the picking dobro that gives a Ry Cooder country dryness to ‘Doing Alright’; and the acoustic strum of ‘You Think You’re Lonely’ that should be bouncing around an open boxcar as it rattles over the points in some dusty mid-western town.

Good stuff. Not everything here is absolutely out of the top drawer, but Sweet’s voice manages to lift even the hum-drum to a higher level. This is a great debut. A grower and a mouthwatering prospect of riches to come. ****

Review by Dave Atkinson

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.

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