Every now and then I receive an email in my inbox with a copy of an album from an artist I’ve not heard before. It happened earlier this year with Sam Riggs and, if you read any of my reviews, we all know how that went. I always make sure I give them a listen and see what’s on offer. If I’m being honest a lot of stuff doesn’t grab me but every now and then there will be something really special. Last week I received an email from the guys at Limetree PR in the UK who are helping promote the latest record from Sean McConnell. For those who don’t know Sean is a successful songwriter and has written tunes that have been recorded by artists from Brad Paisley to Brothers Osborne. This self titled album reeks of all of the songwriting class that Sean has clearly honed over the years and is well worth a review.
Kicking off with Holy Days the album hits you slap in the face. It drives along nicely with McConnell’s smooth vocals and the acoustic guitar. It’s got a big chorus. The one thing that I really love about the song is how personal the lyrics feel. It feels like the story of Sean’s journey up to this point and there is a beautiful poetic rhyme to the words. “You held up your hands in the shape of a camera, took a snapshot so we’d always remember the world we knew, before it faded away” is a beautiful line of lost love and change.
Next up is Ghost Town, which again is a look back on things that have changed. It almost acts as the perfect follow up to Holy Days, which was about leaving and change. “Everyone around here now’s a stranger” speaks of going back to the place where you came from and remembering the ghosts of the past. This is another song where the personal touch to the lyrics really makes it special.
Bottom Of The Sea has a slightly more folky feeling to it and starts with some rolling banjo. “The hardest part of living is knowing you’re gonna die, trying to leave a legacy with only so much time” is the first line of the song but one that I really love – especially in a world where we can get caught up in worrying about where we are going and not appreciating where we are. It’s a great song that really will get the crowds going and dancing at a live show.
Things take a more mellow turn in Beautiful Rose. This is a song that I really love and, again, this is mostly down to the honest lyrics that really are so relatable. One line that really hits me is “maybe life’s not what I thought it’d be, it’s nothing like my childhood fantasies, it’s harder than I could have known but higher than my hopes could float and better than I ever could have dreamed, more villains and sad endings I suppose, but I’ll take the thorns for this beautiful rose”. To me that personally resonate with the idea of taking all of the struggles in life because you know that something beautiful will inevitably come from it. It’s a really positive song about coming to terms with life and enjoying it for the journey that it is. Strangely I always find that these songwriter albums come along at the most appropriate times in my life and this song certainly fits that.
Hey Mary is next and takes a more lighthearted approach. It’s a fun and easy listening love song that definitely takes a little turn from the more deep themes before but is a perfect antidote. McConnell’s voice is on point again too!
The next track is Best We’ve Ever Been which definitely has the feel of a real folk number in the vein of Old Crow Medicine show. Judging from his name Sean clearly has some Irish roots and that can be felt in this song. “A few more miles under the hood but damn girl we look good, baby, we’re the best we’ve ever been” sums up the fun nature of this song celebrating a long relationship or friendship. It’s about celebrating life and enjoying the little things.
Queen Of Saint Mary’s Choir is another favourite of mine on the album. It starts with a chugging acoustic guitar and Sean’s vocals before kicking into a big chorus. It’s another deeply personal song celebrating the journey of life and learning lessons along the way. “I got my mothers heart and I got my fathers hands, I’ve been baptized in the water and came up a music man, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m a product of desire, between the guitar kid from Hudson and the Queen of St Mary’s choir” celebrates the trip that Sean has taken to this point.
The next track is Running Under Water. This is a song that takes the tempo back down a little and has a really dreamy and wide-open feel to it.
The penultimate track on the album is One Acre of Land, which is a very simple acoustic song. It feels like an intimate performance with just Sean and his guitar. It’s an honest song about coming to terms with what you have in life but knowing that it’s enough. “We can build a dream right where we stand, on one acre of land”.
The album is finished off with Babylon. It’s another song that starts of reasonably simply with Sean and his guitar but builds into a huge chorus. These are definitely the songs on the album that I really enjoy the most. It’s a fantastic end to the album. “Did you turn around and watch it crumble? Do you ever go through the rubble?” is another line that hits me personally and I really love.
- Holy Days
- Ghost Town
- Bottom of the Sea
- Beautiful Rose
- Hey Mary
- Best We’ve Ever Been
- Queen of St. Mary’s Choir
- Running Underwater
- One Acre of Land
Having gone into this album never having heard of Sean McConnell I had absolutely no expectations but I was blown away by it. Not only was the quality of musicianship fantastic the songwriting put into the record was also superb. As I said before I love songwriter albums because of the honesty and personal nature of them and this one has that in droves. Don’t get me wrong I love listening to a mainstream album full of other people’s songs if the mood is right but it just doesn’t resonate like a record like this will. I find myself hanging on to every word and placing it into my own experiences. These are the kind of songs that stick with you for a long time. Sean McConnell is probably someone who wont find mainstream radio play unless his words are coming out of Brad Paisley or Tim McGraw’s mouths but he is someone who should be listened to if you’re looking for honesty and heart.
Holy Days, Bottom of the Sea, Beautiful Rose, Queen of St. Mary’s Choir
Six Shooter Rating
8 out of 10