On "Same Thing," Patrick Sweany sings the word "want" nearly 20 times. In the first line, the bluesman turns it into a six-syllable cry. Later, it's hardly a grunt. Later still, a raspy plea. Like any soulful singer, Sweany has the ability to wring every last nuance out of a word just by his delivery.
"Same Thing" is only one example. Sweany's pipes carry That Old Southern Drag through a scruffy mix of Delta blues and vintage soul. He sounds like Otis Redding when letting loose on the slow, organ-filled ballad "More and More." "Oh! Temptation" positions Sweany as a '50s-era R&B crooner; you can picture him dramatically dropping to his knees for the live version's last verse. "Frozen Lake" allows him to ease into a bluesy love song accompanied by only an acoustic guitar.
Sweany's less successful when he lends his considerable vocal talents to the occasional '70s rock track. "Rising Tide" takes a bass-heavy turn reminiscent of Bad Company's "Ready for Love," and feels out of place. The harsh, guitar-driven "Police Car Blues" also comes on too strong.
The most memorable moments of Southern Drag are the simplest. A few chords, Sweany's voice and a little raw emotion—sometimes packaged in just one word—are all he needs to make a lasting impression.
Patrick Sweany plays the Top Hat Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, at 10 PM each night. $24 advance at Rockin Rudy's and the Kettlehouse Brewing Co.