Sean McMahon ― You Will Know When You’re There (March 1, 2019)
⦿ „Někteří písničkáři mají záhadnou schopnost navázat se svými posluchači během několika sekund afinitu. Sean McMahon je jedním z těchto umělců.“ Během posledního desetiletí si umělec z Melbourne Sean McMahon vypiplal svůj vlastní jedinečný hlas v poetickém, melodickém stylu písní, nabitý živým vyprávěním, konfesijními příběhy a lyrickou krásou. Jeho zbrusu nové album „Budete vědět, kdy jste tam“ je dílem skutečně oddaného, obratného skladatele a performera.
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Album release: March 1, 2019
Record Label: Blind Date Records
01. One Foot Out The Door 4:14
02. Angel At Your Back 4:23
03. Outsider Blues 3:48
04. Just For An Hour 3:12
05. Just To See You Again (feat. Freya Josephine Hollick) 3:56
06. Spring 3:56
07. We May Never 5:04
08. Come Around Here 2:45
09. Before You Let Me Down 3:24
10. Show Me The Way 3:33
⦿ Recorded over several sessions with Roger Bergodaz at Union Street Studios the album features a cast of Melbourne’s musical talent, including vocals from Broads’ Kelly Day and Freya Josephine Hollick, guitar by Matt Green, piano and organ by Ryan Oliver and Joe Cope, pedal steel by Matt Dixon, strings from Jason Bun and Giles Warren and the rhythm section of Roger Bergodaz, Tim McCormack and Callan Walker.
Posted on March 29, 2019, Score: 8/10
A tantalising glimpse of antipodean americana from Melbourne~based singer~songwriter.
⦿ Here is a record that provides a tantalising glimpse of Americana in Australia. Sean McMahon, from Melbourne, has a distinctive voice that resonates here ― wistful at times, but always a winning, must listen to, and thoughtful sound. He has gathered around him, with producer Roger Bergodaz, a team of interesting Australian musicians including Kelly Day, Freya Josephine Hollick and Matt Dixon.
⦿ At once, what captures the listener, is the appealing tone of McMahon’s voice, its thoughtful nature. On the first track, ‘One Foot Out the Door,’ ― a love song ― there are conveyed in a lonesome, winning way, implied narrative clues about the situation: “It happens every time…” “Who are you trying to fool?” And the lasting image of “When you walk through the door…” More than enough to capture your attention and lead you on. ‘Angel At Your Back,’ the second track, has McMahon strumming the guitar effectively, his voice intoning: “There’s a hunger in your heart / That you can’t satisfy!” And “An angel at your back” with “Another by your side.” A satisfying, well produced, song.
⦿ ‘Outsider Blues,’ another outstanding piece of music confirms the drive of the record and its musical and lyrical depth. Here is the story of an emotional relationship. The unease of “When you walk through the door” followed by the sadness of the reaction: “So. I’m going back outside.” The almost orchestral arrangement at this stage backs up this feeling, and you are left with the shattered protagonist, “unable to shake the news,” “coming back / To the lonely outside blues.” This is high performance, moving lyricism.
⦿ ‘Just for an Hour’ is the sort of track that holds a good album together. It is just McMahon and his guitar holding the listener with his lyrics, his private thoughts really, about another singer he admires. “The way you sang on Saturday night/ With all of your heart and soul,” the way she looked: “Your hair shone like gold.” Her technique:”You paint a picture so well,” the effect she had on the audience: “You had us all hanging on every word,” the way the lyrics worked: “Behind every sign/ There’s another story going on,” and the profound effect that the voice and lyrics have on a listener: “If I could be anything/ I wish I could be that story.” Interesting how McMahon here touches on the deeper understanding of the effects of a song.
⦿ The title of the album is ‘You Will Know When You’re There.’ Seemingly, McMahon has glimpses of being there in this collection of his songs. Perhaps this is conveyed by the picture on the cover of the record of a lake in Castlemaine, two hours north of Melbourne where McMahon’s record label holds a regular showcase. Who knows?
⦿ Briefly, then, the remainder of the collection. ‘Just To See You Again’ features Freya Josephine Hollick (a fellow Blind Date artist) accompanying Sean. The chorus, “I really want to see you again” and the influence of Matt Dixon’s pedal steel, both have a powerful, lasting effect. Another winning track, ‘Spring,’ the pre~released single for the album, is just as effective. The time of year traps you, “Coming into bloom in the spring,” the progression of the pedal steel heightened by the mouth organ, sound and words — all in all a carefully determined and moving track.
⦿ ‘We May Never’ with Kelly Day (another Blind Date singer) accompanying, is an interesting track with western images: “You are the gold tied to my saddle,” “the rain after the drought,” “the trigger,” “the silence that drowns in the sand,” “the sun that comes out in the East”. “You are right out there at the robbery/ With bare nails and bleeding knees.” A slow revealer of a song with its slow rhythm, the fuzz guitar taking the bridge and those unforgettable lyrics. — AmericanaUK
⦿ “Some songwriters have the uncanny ability of building an affinity with their listeners within seconds. Sean McMahon is one of these artists.” — Happy mag
⦿ “..a master of his craft.” — Sydney Morning Herald
⦿ “..some of the tastiest guitar playing and songwriting around.” — Rhythms
⦿ “There is something reminiscent of Eels’ Mark Oliver Everret to McMahon’s vocal, and indeed were you to cross Eels with The Band you might have something resembling (album) Shiner.” — Beat magazine
⦿ Sean McMahon is a versatile artist with an unmistakable style and voice that ring true across a variety of sonic landscapes captured in his highly regarded recording career to date.
⦿ Through the densely textured electric~guitar soaked alt country of Downhills Home’s Minor Birds and Wolves In The Woods, the sombre, sparse, bluesy hues on concept album Welcome to Gippsland, and the raw, dusty folk on Live At The Last Hotel with acoustic trio Western Union, McMahon has found himself many admirers amongst the Australian music community.
⦿ While his last album was described as a journey through heartfelt alt~country that beautifully conveyed a singer~songwriter’s love affair with the American songbook and a 1930’s Kay guitar, his latest offering sees him move away from an acoustic, singer/songwriter approach, instead exploring a more eclectic blend of elements within blues, psychedelic country, folk, and rock’n’roll with his band the MoonMen.
⦿ His versatility as a musician has led to involvement in other projects besides his own over the last two years. In~between his role as guitarist for the esteemed Suzannah Espie and performing, co~writing and producing with new talent Jemma and the Clifton Hillbillies, McMahon continued to experiment and develop his ideas, writing, recording and occasionally performing around Melbourne with various musicians.
⦿ After eventually reuniting with members of Downhills Home (Josh Duiker on drums and Michael Hubbard on bass). The MoonMen hit Matt Walker’s studio to lay down the basic tracks for 9 songs, before bringing in Ben Franz on Pedal Steel and overdubbing the finishing touches to the new album, Shiner.
⦿ Shiner is at times personal and reflective, at other times ambiguous and playful, but always loaded with poetic phrase and melodic hooks, all hung from the pickups of a 60's Harmony Rocket.
⦿ A true believer in the song itself, McMahon writes the kind of songs that more than hold their own and has the voice to back it up. Once again, he has delivered yet another set of exceptional songs.
⦿ The sheer joy of hitting a big, growling (ringing) open chord on a ‘66 Harmony with a bit of grit is part of Sean McMahon’s performing and recording DNA. This approach worked successfully for McMahon’s earlier band Down Hills on their albums Minor Birds and The Wolves In The Woods, and so it is on One Foot Out The Door and Angel At Your Back, the opening songs on You Will Know When You're There, his debut album on Blind Date Records.
⦿ These songs, the first with its stark confession of a broken love and the second’s romance of a long~passed mentor, via its Waiting On My Man feel, mark the record’s thematic concerns for some kind of redemption or at least release. However, for much of the record McMahon departs from this big guitar approach allowing the songwriter to breathe the emotion of his tunes. McMahon sings in a way that brings a quiet authority to his songs allowing the economy of his lines to be savoured for their wry or poignant observations. Importantly that poignancy is part of the timbre of McMahon’s voice, a gentle ache that coaxes delicate melodies that earworm in a way that is wholly believable and moving.
⦿ This shift is noticeable in the group of songs that begin with Outsider Blues, an intimate, direct and plaintive song that addresses that place of disconnectedness, of loneliness, “I’m not the man I am when I’m with you.” This intimacy continues on the track ‘Just For An Hour’, a solo performance of vocal and acoustic guitar that tenderly portrays an adoration for another singer. McMahon is joined on Just To See You Again, by fellow Blind Date artist Freya Josephine Hollick and the aching blend of these two voices is mesmerising. From this point the arrangements maintain an uncluttered focus allowing the songs to flow, allowing a lightness of touch and a confidence in the strength of the songs to carry their weight.
⦿ Reference points might be Blood On The Tracks Bob Dylan or On The Beach or Harvest Moon Neil Young but that risks reducing the work to pastiche and the strings, fuzz guitar and organ of Show Me The Way aren’t in thrall to any particular style; they create their own. Much of this is down to McMahon’s choice of studio colleagues; in particular drummer and producer engineer Roger Bergodaz. Look at the credits on some of the best releases of recent times and his name will appear as player, engineer or producer.
⦿ The songs are the feature here; the accompaniment serves them, allowing the space to enjoy the inspired playing, whether it’s Jason Bunn’s viola, Matt Dixon’s pedal steel, Matt Green’s guitars or the rhythm section of Bergodaz and Tim McOrmack. Kelly Day’s vocals on Spring and We May Never are a delight, complementing McMahon’s with a wistful power.
⦿ There is a sense of arrival here. McMahon has distilled his influences into an exceptional selection of songs and his singing has delivered the promise of earlier work, that of a generously characterful voice capable of rich nuance, quiet power and that most desirable quality of all: believability. When every third person with a computer and a microphone is convinced of their artistic worth, You Will Know When You're There proves that to deliver something memorable, hard yards must be done, experience must be developed and craft learned and refined.