Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Sean Rowe - Madman (2014)
When first introduced to Troy, New York singer/songwriter Sean Rowe through his ANTI- debut Magic, I would never imagined him making a record like this year's Madman. Madman, his third full length record with ANTI- and his follow up to 2012's The Salesman and the Shark finds expanding his sounds outside of the folk aesthetic. Rowe's genre flirtations on The Salesman and the Shark are taken to their logical conclusion in what is arguably his most pop-oriented to create an album that's not just melancholic rambles cemented by Rowe's booming baritone.
Considering the majority of Rowe's early days as performer was covering soul and blues tunes in small local bars (which his voice is perfectly well suited for), it's refreshing that he turns his sights towards those sounds on Madman. It allows Rowe to flex his songwriting chops in a way that wasn't quite afforded to him in his purely folk turns. Just look at lead/title track "Madman" or the Barry White funkiness of "Desiree" - Rowe's allowing himself to have fun on this album but not at the expense of any of his obvious talent. It's another album like The Salesman and the Shark that points affectionately towards Rowe's record collection while allowing Rowe to expand as a talented songwriter/performer in his own right. And yet Rowe knows exactly when to recenter the album as less of a full band and more as a proper narrative showcase.
It's no surprise that the enjoyable tracks on Madman are those in which Rowe let's his hair down. The album is an eclectic metamorphosis through styles but is anchored by Rowe's confident delivery. While Rowe has never the risk of not being accessible, there's no denying Madman's universal appeal as many of the album's best tracks are when Rowe allows himself to blend in with the rest of his full band - who are talented in their own right. Those little moments of musical excellent are what really elevate the album to awe-inspiring levels; those moments that perfectly capture a frenetic live fervor - like the jazzy tinkling keys or shrieking baritone sax in "Shine My Diamond Ring" or the sludgy din of garage rock distortion on "The Real Thing". Madman is a record that gives an interesting glimpse into the man who made it not through any revealing lyricism, Rowe's done quite enough of that already, but through showing just what inspired and excites - an excitement that is clearly contagious, that'll sweep the listener up and bring them along for the full ride.