A Stunning Collection of Articulate, Raw and Emotional Songs.
I’ve only ever seen Sean Rowe perform in concert once; and he scared me! I first noticed him as he stalked the foyer of the venue looking like an angry and slightly reformed Hells Angel.
During his support slot he stopped mid song to chide someone for not listening, or something. Trust me, we all ‘listened’ very intently, just in case there were questions afterwards!
Jump forward a couple of years and I was having lunch with my friends Bap Kennedy and Willie Richardson in down-town Belfast, when the conversation got around to ‘music we were listening to;’ and Bap told me he had just discovered Sean Rowe and spent ten minutes or more describing the effect the guy was having on him and ‘how he wished that he could write like him.’
As soon as I opened the envelope containing this disc I thought “Ooh…..Bap will want to hear this!” But tragically Bap died on 1st November 2016; and he won’t get to hear Sean Rowe’s latest album NEW LORE…..which has made it a very difficult album for me to review.
The first song Gas Station Rose opens with some delightfully strummed Folk guitar then, much to my surprise the gruff voiced Rowe goes on to deliver a beautiful love song as strings swoop and soar around his words like swallows and hummingbirds.
I love the little chuckle that introduces the snappy Newton’s Cradle; an upbeat tune that masks a song with a dark story at it’s heart. The title comes from the line “Every time we fight/It’s like a Newton’s Cradle.” which is quite a novel description and something Bap would have appreciated.
It has taken a while for me to get my head around this album; but eventually the ‘penny dropped’ and it’s not just Rowe’s rich baritone but the detail in songs like It’s Not Hard To Say Goodbye Sometimes and The Vine that reminded me of ……..Leonard Cohen. Seriously, once I ‘got that’ everything fell into place.
A couple of songs really, really stand out, You Keep Coming Alive is almost frightening in it’s brooding intensity and I Can’t Make a Living From Holding You is a Masterclass in songwriting; but …..and this might make me contrary; my favourite song here is a love song to, for and about Rowe’s child.
Twee? Hell no……but the way Sean describes his feelings about the here and now then his fears for their future are simply beautiful; and the delicate production make for a timeless song that will live on far beyond any of us listening today.
Recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillips’ Recording Studio; NEW LORE isn’t like anything I’ve heard from Sean Lowe before; the songs and stories are still as open, intense and raw as expected but the production by Matt Ross makes them warm and accessible; which the magnificent lyrics deserve.
Released April 7th 2017