Jimmy Sweetwater – Food, Sex and Music
It could be argued that The Band created Americana music. Certainly one of the first popular acts to bring a multi-genre approach to their music which is at the heart of Americana. Unlike The Byrds Folk focus or The Flying Burrito Brothers Country focus, The Band used R&B and Blues as their anchor. I consider The Band to be Blues.
It’s in this vein that one can look at Jimmy Sweetwater. A harmonica wielding, washboard scraping singer/songwriter with a distinctive Levon Helm style of singing, Sweetwater has a Robbie Robertson indebted genre defying writing style. On his new record Food, Sex and Magic, Sweetwater lays out 8 diverse takes on Roots based Blues.
This record was cut in 3 different areas all with different personnel. In St. Louis, Cree Rider is on guitar, Simon Chervitz bass, and Scotti Iman drums. In the Catskills, Mike Batthany plays keyboards and bass, John Condon drums and John Botten guitar. And finally in Richmond, VA, Scott Martin offers “guitar and Spiritual Guidance.” Although each song doesn’t have personnel listings, one can infer from the sets of musicians who played on what.
Album opener “Say Goodbye” sets the stage well. A duet presumably between Martin on guitar and Sweetwater on percussion and harp this is a showcase for Sweetwater’s raspy croak. “It’s easier to say goodbye when there’s no time to say hello,” is a fun way to start an album. The looping “Pawn Ticket,” presumably featuring Batthany’s electric piano, is a hard luck hobo’s stroll. Then comes the tough funk of “She Walks In A Funky Way.” These three tunes push the listeners buttons. Quirky acoustic folk, shambling hard luck and a funky come on. Clever turns of phrase are also abundant. The “Un-Affordable Housing Blues” and the nonsense of “Slim Slamity Slew” pair nicely with songs about “Seafood Deep Fried.”
Jimmy Sweetwater is talented. His web site boasts participation in over 100 albums while his discography stretches back to 1990. Sweetwater’s playing, writing and singing bears this out. Food, Sex and Music is a cool record and a fun listen. Sadly it is not available on streaming services and hasn’t been pressed into a physical format. You can go to Sweetwater’s web site and listen song by song for free. Although not strictly Blues, Jimmy Sweetwater certainly has the Blues in him and it comes out in a unique and creative way.