Sean Rowe – [Album]

Friday, 25 February 2011

Ever been walking along a busy city street at night and, out of the corner of your eye, you could've sworn you saw someone you used to love knowing? It could be anyone – a drinking buddy who moved out of town for work, the waitress who always used to smile at you when she delivered your coffee at your local shoppe but left unexpectedly for school, the girl who got away – but the possibility of reconnecting with that person again is so exciting at that particular moment that you turn on your heel and try to catch up to them and see. Your heart sinks a little when you do catch them at the next crosswalk and you discover that the resemblance this person actually bears to your friend/lover/waitress was only there in passing; if there was really any at all. You probably felt silly after that mistake but, deep down, you find yourself tucking that moment away for later recollection because, in your mind, somehow that instance stands as a hopeful proof that such a magic moment could happen to you – somehow, some way – and that's the thing which will keep you warm at night when you're feeling most alone. Listening to Sean Rowe's ANTI– debut is a little like that moment of mistaken identity on a dark, busy street. On this first introduction, the singer has a familiar echo of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and William Elliott Whitmore; he's not any of them, of course, but the album opens with a “Surprise” as the warmest, most comforting kind of consolation prize.

From open to close, Magic makes the most of that what makes a great songwriter is a lifetime spent missing golden opportunities but, while there's no doubt that regret plays a role in the process, the results are a dry-eyed chronicle of tribulations over which triumph was realized and lessons learned. All of that is apparent in songs including “Time To Think,” “Night,” “Jonathan” and “Old Black Dodge” as each takes a turn rolling in like the blackest of dark clouds and sell the idea to listeners that they should brace themselves for the impact of a perfect emotional storm. The ominous arpeggios of Rowe's acoustic guitar leave the impression that the early playing of the record is the calm before the storm and all hell will break loose when just a few key planks behind that guitar and Rowe's own crestfallen baritone give way (when the singer just whispers “Hey kid, I don't bite/But if you want to see dark/ get out of the light” a chill will run up your spine) and there won't be any coming back. It could be on “Wet” – who knows? The singer's methodical delivery gives listener's mind all the time it needs to imagine every possible worst case scenario and brace itself for a perceived inevitable…

…But nothing bursts. There is no hellacious rave-up, just the battered soul of Sean Rowe left as the almost hymnal “The Long Haul” fades out to close the record.

Some would call the singer's refusal to bow to the actions that everyone expected of him in this run-time an epic tease – there is no confrontational moment and no reckoning – but even those listeners who balk will also admit to feeling a little warmer after the last down note falls. A wry smile will be the almost universal reaction because, somehow, listeners know they got what they needed from the singer although it wasn't what they expected. That sense of satisfaction is what will keep listeners coming back through future albums; this first offering might not be what listeners expect, but Magic lives up to its' name.



Magic is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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