Ed Sweeney Bio

For almost 40 years, Ed Sweeney has performed nationally and internationally in schools, clubs, tea houses, at festivals, house concerts, theatres — almost any venue imaginable. Ed’s concerts and recordings have earned accolades throughout the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and parts of Asia. Reviewers call him “a master of unpretentiousness” and “delightfully fresh.” 

Ed started learning how to play guitar in the late 60's from the blind blues singer Paul Pena. One night Ed was an opening act for Andy Cohen. After the show Andy sat with Ed and taught him more songs and guitar styles. From those early influences Ed developed a passion for Traditional music and styles. Ed brought that musical passion with him to college. He became the first music major in Providence College's history (but not the first one to graduate).

Ed performs a wide-ranging repertoire (traditional, blues, old-timey, ragtime, Christmas, Beatles, Bach, O’Carolan…) on 6- and 12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, and fretless banjo. He primarily plays finger-style guitar; his style of 5 string banjo playing is clawhammer, frailing, or old-timey.

His latest CD, Commonplaces, is with Mary Lee Partington as Partington & Sweeney. The critically acclaimed Commonplaces tells stories of immigrants, farmers and factory workers during 19th and 20th century America. 

Ed’s critically acclaimed What Lies Ahead is with Pipa Master Yang Wei and other members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. What Lies Ahead represents a musical collaboration where Eastern and Western traditions meet. 

Other recordings include the instrumental. Passing Through is an instrumental Americana recording of American music from the Revolutionary War to World War I.

Ed has recorded two instrumental Christmas CDs; Inside Fezziwig’s, The Spirit of Christmas Past, which USA Today called “the best folk Christmas release of the year” and It's Christmas Time In The City.

The Times They Are Something Like They Used To Be and Scratching The Surface are recordings of eclectic songs and instrumentals. The Binghamton Sun wrote "Ed Sweeney's wry, articulate, and evocative singing, his exquisite musicianship, and his eclectic collection of obscure songs shouldn't be missed".

Ed’s music can be heard on television soundtracks, as background music in Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Tokyo, as well as in the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. Ed has been featured on NPR and is currently heard on hundreds of radio stations and on line networks. 

Ed is constantly exploring and building new avenues and partnerships for learning and sharing the music of many peoples.

Today you might watch Ed in a solo concert of eclectic songs and styles. You might watch him perform with Yang Wei as they mix Eastern and Western Traditional music. Perhaps you’ll watch him and Mary King combine the songs of Stephen Foster with the wit of Mark Twain. Or maybe you’ll listen as Partington & Sweeney, weave a musical story of immigrants and their traditions as they moved west.

Ed Sweeney honors people and their history by presenting music that entertains as well as educates. Through his musical expertise, breadth of knowledge, and wonderful sense of humor, Ed helps listeners come to understand the motivations, stories, and culture that have made us who and what we are today.