Sean McConnell – Live @ Eddie’s Attic

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A friend asked me to go see a concert.  It would, of course, be better to say a free concert, but $15, as concerts go, is close enough.  And it was at Atlanta’s “legendary” Eddie’s Attic, a cool place to listen to a show. 

My friend volunteered to work with a church youth group a good number of years ago, and one of the kids was friends with Sean McConnell.  So there’s the connection, because I hadn’t heard of the guy.  Although there was no real consideration of a return favor, because I like going to concerts, the same friend did go with me to a Jason Isbell show years ago, who he was unfamiliar with.  So there’s that. 

Anyway, let’s just say the nearly two hour commute from Woodstock to Decatur was the steepest price paid for the night. 

Opening acts… you never know what you’re going to get, but rarely are they bad.  This was Statesboro’s own, Scotty Cram.  Scotty grew up with a father that likes Motown, and as a result of talent and some work, he’s one of the palest soul singers ever, his voice reaching an octave or two above his speaking voice.  Enjoyable and artist perhaps on the rise, though a website would be a start.

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So, I said yes to this concert without listening to the artist.  In the previously mentioned 2 hour commute, my friend had a couple of McConnell’s early CDs, one of which was likely while he was a teenager, “Faces.”  Maybe it was the car stereo that was set to Treble only or maybe the recording just suffered from funding, but I wasn’t so impressed, though “Running From the Devil” was interesting, and he has an unpretentious way of writing that speaks of faith without hammering it.  Whatever.  That was like 2001.

And now he’s playing for an almost packed Eddie’s Attic.  Where an artist comes from isn’t really something that I think about.  Sure, maybe a State or the U.K., but not local.  And here’s McConnell, singing about Trickum Road.  Well, yeah.  If you’re going to pick a street name in my vicinity, that one begs to be included in a song.   

Now Nashville based, McConnell has been at the music business for over a decade, and though he doesn’t possess an audience between songs, he shares enough to illuminate enough about himself and his path to make the songs more personal.

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The songs I liked the best were probably “Save Our Soul” and “Novocaine,” not because they’re lyrically great, but rather because they move musically.  Too often, McConnell remains on the same fret which brings a certain “sameness” to too many of his songs, as earnest as they are.

On the other hand, it’s obvious he does pay careful attention to his lyrics, and that’s really the challenge of a self described “optimistic troubadour.”  When you choose to be a singer/songwriter for a living, I can only imagine the pressure to turn a pithy lyrical phrase that will nail an audience.

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And he seems to be getting better at it.  His voice is richer, he sings in varying styles, and the  new songs he previewed spoke to a deliberate effort to raise the bar lyrically.  If he could pick up a few guitar licks from the pessimistic troubadour, James McMurtry, he’d leapfrog a year or three of gradual growth.

It was a really good show, and I’d go see him again.  Below is his latest CD, which detours from the personal acoustic set as he’s accompanied by a full band.  There’s merit in both.  There’s a lot to like here, such as “Kiss” and “Lord it’s Gonna Rain.”   He’s definitely growing a sense of vibe.

 

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