Album review: ADAM SWEET – Sink Or Swim

Adam Sweet - Sink Or Swim

Adam Sweet Music [Release date 11.09.20]

Although credited as an Adam Sweet solo album, the conceptually titled ‘Sink or Swim’ is very much a band effort.

Singer songwriter Adam Sweet has taken a step up by working with an A-team rhythm section comprising bassist Ian Jennings and drummer Garry Kroll. They bring a mix of heft and musical depth to the Sweet and Steve Black song catalogue.

The final piece in the audio jigsaw is that of producer Josiah J. Manning. Known for his work with Kris Barras, he captures the energy, sonic quality and resonance of Sweet’s expressive vocals.

The end result is the perfect framework for a singer songwriter who has the chops, the phrasing and evocative songs to make ‘Sink Or Swim’ a splendid example of contemporary roots rock.

It would be easy to tag this album as UK Americana, but that would be generalise Sweet’s own unique style.

For a start, there’s his immediately recognisable aching vocal and sincere story telling narratives. He digs deep inside his  songs for his own niche, without the need for cliché,

He’s a thoughtful songwriter who leads his band purposefully into a mellifluous musical journey that always leaves you wanting to hear the next track.

He moves from full band workouts to more stripped-down affairs, while striking the kind of musical equilibrium that will suit most rock and blues fans alike.

He opens with the slide-led, stop-time ‘Working On It’, which is a surprisingly relaxed mid-tempo affair, but he immediately counterweights that with the wailing harp intro to ‘You Or Me’ , a rock-blues shuffle with a perfunctory ending that reminds me of Storyville.

It’s a style he returns to on the organ layered lead track Trouble’, notable for the big production sound.

He’s in his element as his wah-wah inflected guitar rises above the funky B3 foundation of ‘Something From Nothing’. He also indulges himself with some hot picking and harmony guitars on the unexpected Southern rock style instrumental ‘Devil’s Lake’.

But it’s his ability to occupy different and sometimes contrasting musical styles that makes this album that bit more interesting.

‘Like It Or Not’ for example, is a heartfelt soulful ballad with carefully chosen notes, emotive phrasing and crisp percussion, while his lightness of touch serves him well on the gentle brush strokes of ‘Not A Moment Too Soon’ and the delicately toned ‘Miss You So’.

His mix of roots-rock, ballads and grooves with a soulful bent and a funky blues undertow, draws the listener into a set of songs with a real flow.

He rounds things off with a contrasting brace of songs, moving from the pop-into Jackson Brown style ‘Here To Nowhere’ – which benefits from ascending bv’s and a big guitar finish – to the perfect bookend of ‘Something‘ll Happen’.

His nuanced rhythm section provides the perfect swampy support to some original lyrics: “We’ve all had a bill we weren’t expecting, and wondered how the hell we’re gonna pay. You could do worse than adopt this saying, something’ll happen, it always will.”

If ‘Sink Or Swim’ sounds like an uncompromising title, it’s simply a statement of Adam Sweet’s ambition to do things in his own way.

The strong songs, vibrant music, and impassioned vocals are all perfectly framed by an organic feel which allows a rocking band to showcase the music of a fine singer- songwriter. You should really check him out. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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