Barton & Sweeney Widen Horizons Tulsa Duo Trying to Build Following Here

By Sculley, Alan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 20, 1994 | Go to article overview

Barton & Sweeney Widen Horizons Tulsa Duo Trying to Build Following Here


Sculley, Alan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


MARK SWEENEY, who along with guitarist George Barton forms the Oklahoma-based folk-rock duo Barton & Sweeney, mentions a modest reason for wanting to build a following in St. Louis.

"We're trying to develop that area," said Sweeney, who grew up in St. Charles. "It's something I want to develop just so I can go home sometimes."

Somehow, one can't help but think that home cooking and the chance to visit friends and family are just the start of Sweeney's ambitions as he and Barton attempt to establish themselves beyond the Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma area. And events of the last year suggest they're making solid progress.

Sweeney recently was chosen as one of 32 finalists from a field of 700 entrants for the New Folk Competition for Emerging Songwriters at the Kerrville Folk Festival, a well-known showcase event for songwriters,. The duo has also received a strong response for shows in 1993 at two prestigious music showcase events, the South-by-Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Tex., and the Mississippi River Music Festival here in St. Louis. They've also received frequent airplay in St. Louis on KDHX (FM-88) radio.

Now with Barton & Sweeney putting the finishing touches on a self-released debut CD, they should be primed for better concert bookings and perhaps a record deal.

In terms of quality of music and sound, the CD is an impressive effort for a self-recorded and produced recording. The songwriting skills that have earned the duo considerable regional praise shine brightly on tunes such as "Scenery," a song that captures the bittersweet life of a journeyman musician; "Monsters," an angry look at violence, particularly against women and children; and "Sweet Voice," which features one of the disc's most lively melodies.

Though all acoustic, the Barton & Sweeney sound is full-bodied and highly rhythmic. Sweeney's rough-and-ready vocals and rhythm guitar-playing make a nice fit with the percussive pace of the music, while Barton offers plenty of evidence of his talents as both a lead and rhythm guitarist.

"I just can't wait to get it out and get going on it," Sweeney said of the CD. "I'm pretty excited about it. It's our first product and it's the thing we need to propel us into a lot easier situation for booking."

Sweeney, who has lived in Talequah, Okla. since 1977, grew up in St. Charles, then moved to California at age 19. Music has been a priority for him ever since his teen-age years.

"I played guitar and sang and experimented with songwriting back in those days," he said. "And when I left I pretty much took my guitar with me. That was the plan, to endeavor into the music business, some naive kind of outlook back in those days, but I ended up out West a lot. Basically, I started out singing semi-professionally in Tucson, Ariz., with a couple of other guys. I've been in quite a few different bands, configurations since then. …

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