Sean McCann – [Album]

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

'Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes' – what a surprisingly somber title for a record by Séan McCann. McCann, of course, first made his name singing and performing high-energy Maritime Canadian, English, Irish and French folk standards with Great Big Sea and, while that band would occasionally trip and fall into the odd introspective number, none have ever been so far down as the name of this album implies. The implication of such a title is that the party is long since over – the raucous night has been shattered by dawn – and all that's left is to dry your eyes, nurse the hangover, pick up the empties and try to forget about the girl that simultaneously left and started it all before you return to bed hoping to sleep off the hurt along with the hangover.

While there's no debating that much of Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes ruminates upon the parts of relationships that have been left largely untouched by Great Big Sea, the album isn't so melancholy or defeated sounding as the irrecoverable loss described above is either. True, no part of the album is so upbeat as Great Big Sea's music, but this album isn't a wilful reaction against that tradition either. Rather, Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes is a more contemplative work than any McCann's name has been attached to previously, and it finds the singer endeavoring on the angle of a singer-songwriter; the songs seem closer to the heart  than the stuff McCann has done with Great Big Sea.

From the beginning of “Somewhere (For Fin),” McCann trades his old Maritime music chops for a set of new and sparkling ones that owe more to country and folk (think along the lines of Hank Snow, perhaps) that are still not geographically out of place, but significantly different from anything fans have heard from the singer before. The consistently mid-tempo songs seek to creep into the hearts of listeners and capture that territory rather than get feet tapping and, as long as you've got a pulse, you'll find yourself game for the conquest; there is heartache in McCann's corroded tenor that listeners will find they want to take into themselves to help unburden the singer. In return, McCann plays each and empties his heart into each for a song. Every drop of pathos and resignation that songs like “Gone Tomorrow,” “Razor & Rust” and “Lazy Lover”  can hold gets wrung into those buckets and listeners will find themselves begging for more – they can take it, and want to – and by the time McCann reaches his own limit in “Don't Cry” (which opens with the words, “Don't cry – baby, don't cry – Daddy's gonna sing you a lullaby”), the singer and listeners find they've collapsed into each other in exhaustion from the preceding emotional exertion. It's the sort of moment when everyone just heaves a pregnant sigh and basks in the fact that, while not everything is perfect here, it could be one hell of a lot worse.

And then you laugh in spite of yourself. After all – how were you taken by this wholly uncharacteristic, unexpected record from Séan McCann? How did it come to be that you placed such an emotional investment in it that you feel drained in the end? The answer is as simple as it is unbelievable: you didn't see it coming, and you got hooked because you were trying to figure it out. This sudden jump away from anything you might have expected of Séan McCann took you completely off-guard and you found that you got into it as much as it got into you. And you'll be hoping it happens again soon; Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes is a fine surprise that begs an encore performance.



Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes
will be released by Lean Ground on February 23, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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