Sean Rowe Madman on 2LP + CD
Madman is the extraordinary new album and beautifully primal work from singer Sean Rowe who The Wall Street Journal says “recalls the ecstatic intensity of late-’60s Van Morrison and stark subtlety of late-era Johnny Cash.” Madman is deliberately simple in both arrangement and composition. It is soul music in the purest and most literal sense, hypnotic rhythms, warmly distorted guitars and Rowe’s incredible voice recalling a time, real or imagined, when music and people seemed distinctly more connected.
Rowe’s previous Anti- release, The Salesmen and The Shark, was a far more polished affair recorded in Los Angeles with the accompaniment of West Coast session players. This time around, Rowe is intent on replicating the immense emotional power of his live performances. The process began with Rowe alone in an upstate New York recording studio with his guitar, laying down riffs that would become songs. For Madman, an album he was self-producing, Rowe wanted to strip away much of the production and focus instead on the voice and guitar style he had perfected in theaters, nightclubs and living rooms.
The record begins with the title track "Madman." A rhythmic guitar, lilting piano and melodic bass, punctuated by horns all of it in the service of Rowe’s incredibly soulful voice. It is an immensely personal and heartfelt song for the recent father and dedicated naturalist, with Rowe singing, “When the road takes me to the other side of the world/Let a walnut tree replace me/Give my body back to the birds."
Rowe came of age listening to his father’s record collection that included The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and more. But in his late teens it was soul and blues that spoke to the bourgeoning singer-songwriter. Rowe says the sound of Madman is influenced, in large part, by the hypnotic driving guitars of Delta blues. The influence of Delta blues is most apparent on the album’s second track “Shine My Diamond Ring” with its driving repetitive guitar and stomping bass drum. “Desiree” is a raucous deconstructed take on early disco, with a pulsating bass, Nile Rogers-like guitar picking and a looser than ever Rowe singing with absolute abandon.
On Sean Rowe’s latest, the adage less is more is on full display. This is a record of extraordinary honesty intent on establishing a connection. In its deliberate simplicity there is pure sonic emotion. “I wanted to go right to the heart with this,” he explains. “And sometimes that meant seeing how much we could remove. It helps to have a great recording. But I would rather have great performances and that’s what I was after here. Sometimes when you’re listening to a piece of music you don’t have to think about it, you just feel it. It’s primal and you trust it.”
Sean Rowe Madman Track Listing:
2. Shine my Diamond Ring
4. The Game
5. The Drive
6. Spiritual Leather
1. Done Calling You
2. The Real Thing
3. Razor of Love
4. My little Man
5. Looking for the Master
6. It Won’t be Long