The latest release from singer/songwriter and musician Luke Sweeney, Peace Meal, is a follow up to his 2014 album Adventure: Us and traveled a long road to its release. Sweeney began working on the album in 2015 and finished the initial recording later that same year, but Sweeney’s infant daughter died following the studio sessions and it is only now that the album is seeing its much deserved light of day. The ten songs included on Peace Meal traverse a variety of musical moods, but possess a singular energy in any form they take. This is not a virtuoso album – do not expect masturbatory displays of instrumental skill weighing down the songs rather than serving them. It is the work of a talented musician, without question, but Sweeney’s focus is placed on the songs and melodic virtues that distinguish Peace Meal from so much of the fare glutting music outlets throughout the world. It is a release of deep feeling and thoughtfulness that affirms life and the inspiring value of musical art.
The two songs opening the album, “Already Yours” and “East Coast Vertigho St” are both standouts thanks to their uptempo energy, melodies, superb vocals, and five star lyrics. Sweeney isn’t the kind of songwriting who overburdens his work with needless wordiness but, instead, uses language with the same suggestive precision and layering of meaning personifying his musical arrangements. The first of the two songs and opener “Already Yours” has an airy mix allowing the individual instrumental parts to breathe rather than overwhelm one another, but “East Coast Vertigho St” takes a different, albeit recognizably similar, approach with added emphasis on the drumming and more dynamic musical arrangement.
The album’s pop oriented inclinations blend well with a rockier edge on the album’s fourth track “Special Stoner” and it continues exploring the same dynamic territory we heard with “East Coast Vertigho St”. Sweeney is not a musician or performer who keeps his foot pushing down on the gas pedal throughout the song and his talent for alternating light and shadow, for lack of better term, makes “Special Stoner” stand out more than it might in the hands of a lesser talent. The track, likewise, affords him the opportunity to showcase his vocal skills in a way the preceding three tracks did not.
“Ruby Rain” is much more restrained and has minimal musical accompaniment when it begins. Sweeney builds the song over time into a mini pop symphony of a sort with numerous peaks certain to grab listeners on an emotional level. His capacity for holding a listener’s attention so completely that the surrounding world falls away is a rare gift and is in full effect with this performance. Electric guitar is more prominent throughout “Sippin’ Lemonade” than it is on many of the album’s other songs and lays down a straight forward and catchy melody that complements the vocal melody. The light uptempo pace of the song makes it all the more enjoyable.
Acoustic guitar plays an important role during the song “Therapy”. It is, in my opinion, one of the album’s finest moments and its quietest without a doubt. There is some additional musical color, but the song is centered on his voice, the guitar work, and lyrical content – there is no shift in a different direction arriving a minute into the track or later. It is an excellent track to come so late in the album and illustrates how his varied songwriting talents make Peace Meal such a rewarding release for listeners. Anyone who responds to sincere songwriting brimming over with deep humanity will love this collection.