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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Ed Sweeney with Cathy Clasper-Torch " A Sunday Drive" Album Review.

Artist: Ed Sweeney with Cathy Clasper-Torch

Album: A Sunday Drive

Released: 2023

For more than 45 years Ed Sweeney has actively explored ways to research, learn, perform and teach traditional American music. He started this journey in high school, then became the first music major at Providence College in 1973 where he helped create and shape a curriculum that enabled him to continue learning and following his musical passion. 

Ed's music has been used in the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. It also has been included in soundtracks for TV shows such as Northern Exposure and Briarpatch, and can be heard at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Disneyland Tokyo. The Battle Cry of Freedom, an instrumental 12 string guitar piece from one of his recordings was featured at the entrance to Disneyland’s Frontierland between 1995-2012, and was then selected for the six-CD set Disney’s 50th Anniversary – A Musical History of Disneyland.

Sweeney's latest effort "A Sunday Drive" is simply a wonderful work of art. There is a sense of patience and maturity that comes only from decades of chipping away on an instrument until the master is all that is left. The music takes the listener on a musical journey, painting sonic pictures that are both colorful and quite haunting at times. The deep musical authenticity shines through at every turn in the road that this record takes.

A wonderful version of the George Harrison classic While My Guitar Gently Weeps instantly caught my ear. The obvious reason being is it is a familiar piece. A Beatles cover is always a gutsy move. Not everyone can do them justice. However, this beautiful acoustic version of the classic song landed as smoothly as I have heard. A stripped down simple take exposes how great the song is. Fans of instrumental music will absolutely love this breathtaking interpretation.

A Little Traveling Music is a bluesy piece that conjures up a picture of a southern summer sunrise. It is another very simple song in terms of the instrumentation. This is where I feel these musicians shine the brightest on this release. It is the sparseness of the arrangement and production that lends itself to being so easy on the ears. But make no mistake, the virtuosity of the musicians is quite clear to those who know. It is a delightful short masterpiece that says all that needs to be said. Anything more would have been too much.

My favorite cut on the album is Lament For The Death Of The Reverend Archie Beaton. As a fan of instrumental acoustic music this one jumped right out of the speakers at me. The pairing of Ed Sweeney and Cathy Clasper-Torch is the most mellow lightning in a bottle I have heard. Putting great musicians together to make records is easy. However, getting the chemistry right is rare. Part of that equation is that they respect one another's space. This duo sounds like they have been gracefully dancing together for decades. They are operating in that rare space in art where the dancer and the dance are no longer discernible separate entities, but one fluid movement of expression.

This is a world class release on every level. Not just musically exceptional, but it is a wonderful sounding recording from the technical side of the spectrum as well. The mic placements on the instruments are precisely where they need to be to capture what that instrument sounds like and more importantly feels like in the room. A dying art in a digital recording age. That attention to detail is what completes this masterful set. It would be a shame to record these exceptional performances with a lackluster effort from the engineer. Fans of acoustic music will bask in this beautiful album and all of its subtle musical treats. I hope it finds the many listeners it deserves.

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