Sean Rowe’s voice is an astonishing instrument. It has soul, it has a deep, warm, raw animal energy, and it has a magnificent bluesy timbre. Yet, it is also focussed and beautiful. It’s hard not to be totally overwhelmed by how stunning his voice is. Add to that how good the music across these here 12 songs is, and we have a collection of songs on Madman that would make any man, woman or child (perhaps it’s a bit much for a child, as it might be frightening in its tone and mood) believe that going mad is the greatest of all options in life.
It kicks off with everything to love about the record right from the start. The thrill is immediate. The title track takes less than one minute to blow you away and then there really is no looking back as the entire record doesn’t just work its charm but stuns. The record exudes a confidence, not just of a man hitting his stride, but one that is milking every last note of beauty from the moment.
His voice sounds like gravel, it sounds like doom, it sounds like love. It sounds like having your ears pummelled by a dark delight. Yes, you could throw names like Tom Waits and Nick Cave and other weird and wonderful artists at this, but that would be to miss how Sean Rowe has much to offer by way of his own unique songwriting ability. If you like Waits and Cave, for example, you will likely fall in love with this too, but there is much more than a reason for a name drop here.
It recalls some of the classic blues vibes of years gone by, and it isn’t hard to picture that some of the music was made in years gone by, except for how modern the production seems, and how thoroughly in touch with modern blues and rock the record also seems. It has one foot in the past and one in the present looking to the future. The mix of ballads and upbeat numbers is perfectly balanced, and little can be found to criticise here. It’s a 47 minute journey to simply absorb and enjoy. The dilemma would be whether to give it a 9 or a 10 if FFS had numerical gradings for records (and perhaps that decision would take a bit longer to commit to).
It’s a lot of fun too, not just a collection of tracks to admire, but it makes you want to get up with a partner and spin each other into the night as the songs deserve great attention, from ears and feet both. Even the slow songs are endlessly romantic to dance a slow dance to. By the end of the album it’s hard to picture how it could have been any better, it really is that good, that special, and a testament to how talented this man, a name most have never heard of, is.
It deserves to be heard. It deserves praise and acclaim of all sorts. It’s a simply stunning record of a man possessed. This is the sound of modern blues folk at its very best. That is to say, you won’t hear a better blues folk record this year. In fact, you are unlikely to hear a record of any genre that is better this year. A remarkable feat of an album. Go and find it, right now!