Séan McGann: Beyond Great Big Sea

Son of a Sailor
Lean Ground Music 2-000063
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Originally published in SingOut! Magazine 54:4

Longtime Great Big Sea (GBS) mainstay Séan McCann also indulges his singer/songwriter persona. Son of a Sailor is his second solo release and the material and feel of it suggest he’s evolving a new genre: Salt Water & Western. The album consists of ten songs that explore blue-collar life, plebian dreams, and everyday heartaches. To set the mood, McCann varies his vocal styles. Sometimes he’s a smooth tenor, sometimes a winsome (and ironic) Irishman, and at other moments he’s earnest, raspy-voiced, and contemplative. Above all, he’s a storyteller. “The Reply (the ballad of John and Mary)” is an across-time love song based loosely on his grandparents that’s like a conversation between two hearts beating in unison. “Soldier’s Song” is an interior look into men deployed away from home that reminds us that they generally think about family, not manufactured warrior ideals. McCann also sings of the lure of the sea (“Rather be a Sailor”), but he balances the ideal with the real. In “Another Long Goodbye” he cleverly uses the romantic ambience of the tune to strip away overly romantic notions of what hard work and seafaring entail. Those who know McCann only from GBS will find his solo efforts less rowdy, more personal, and more folksy than pop. You have to make your way to “Back to You,” the final track, before you get anything that approaches GBS in energy. That’s not a dig; McCann’s quiet, reflective side is sublime.
-Rob Weir    

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