Sean Rowe at the me and thee (Allysen Callery opens)
Sean Rowe has spent much of the last year traveling the country with just his guitar, performing in people's living rooms. "It's like I'm some kind of a bearded salesman," he says, "Going door to door but instead of vacuum cleaners I'm selling all these feelings that come with the songs. It's a really intense experience for listeners to have me there in their homes playing. They're not used to having a stranger show up, play music, drink their beer and eat their food. But I think that's how we're supposed to be. It only feels strange because we've made it that way."
It is this same sense of unflinching connection that has shaped Rowe's extraordinary new album Madman. The singer, who The Wall Street Journal wrote "recalls the ecstatic intensity of late-'60s Van Morrison and stark subtlety of late-era Johnny Cash" has created a beautifully primal work. Madman is deliberately, if not defiantly, 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. "I came to this realization that the songs don't have to be structurally heavy to be intense," he explains. "It's more about the honesty and emotion behind the delivery. A lot of these songs are pretty simple but I was really thoughtful about that, it was intentional. I wanted to go right to the heart."
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. "My singing is definitely more playful on this record," he says. "Lyrically the song is about living this life when you're on the road more than you're at home." 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 a 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. "I was listening to records by R.L. Burnside and John Lee Hooker and others which are basically just guitar and drums and really raw sounding. I was also listening to the early soul records like Otis Redding and Ray Charles. I didn't want to try and duplicate those sounds, just take aspects of them and make them my own."
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. "The guitar sound was influenced by John Lee Hooker," Rowe says. "The version you hear on the record which was mostly a live cut almost never happened as it was very last minute. We already had an earlier version of Shine that i was happy with but on this particular day we had about 15 minutes to kill till wrap up time and i felt if i grabbed the drummer and recorded this song live with just the two of us, I could nail it even better. I'm glad I did that."
"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. "It's so different than any song I've done before, Rowe says. "It's a really fun song and it felt good. It's one of those songs that I felt like I needed to write. With the thumping bass and drums it needed a lot of space so we tried to keep as many holes in it as possible. The vocals were cut live in one take."
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."
" Her lilting voice and heartfelt lyrics are eerily close to the work of the late British songstress Sandy Denny, the highest compliment I could hand down to this brilliant artist."- Paste Magazine
Allysen Callery is self taught folk artist from Rhode Island, USA , her vocal delivery recalls the haunting style of the late 60s early 70s British Folk Revival.
Her first two albums Hopey (2007) & Hobgoblin's Hat (2010) were self released, but reached an international audience, thanks to radio stations such as Folk Radio UK, Sideways Through Sound (Australia) & favorable reviews from Terrascope.
In 2011 her EP Winter Island was released by Woodland Recordings (DE), with
Allysen touring Germany & Switzerland in it's support.
The rare first edition of this EP sold out in it's first month of release.
She has been called "The Tim Burton of Folk Music" , her quiet & dark style has made her a favorite of artists & critics alike,
including Marissa Nadler who listed Winter Island in her Best Albums of 2011.
"Winter Island is a record that could proudly sit tall next to Sibylle Baier's Colour Green and Leonard Cohen's Songs From A Room. It's impossibly delicate, gorgeously written, and emanates a timeless quality." ~Marissa Nadler for We Listen For You
It was said that a bard could cast a spell with just his harp playing and his voice, and the spell would transport the listeners to another world while the song played. Most but not all of the listeners would make it back when the song ended. Callery displays that kind of otherworldly ability"
~Oliver di Place
In Oct 2012 her second EP " The Summer Place" was released by Berlin based indie label Woodland Recordings, with Allysen again returning to Germany & Switzerland.
In addition, the vinyl only record label JellyFant pressed Winter Island &
The Summer Place into one beautiful limited edition record.
Early review from ShinDig/Happening Magazine writes
" This nice slice of vinyl collects the two EPs by Rhode Island folk artist Allysen Callery, Winter Island and The Summer Place. The pieces work seamlessly as a standalone album and should introduce Callery's style to the wider audience it deserves.Graceful as gossamer, Callery weaves intricate folk webs with her intimate voice and understated, finger-picked guitar.
This is a lovely record from an extremely promising new artist".
2012 Winner- Best Acoustic/Singer-Songwriter Act Providence Phoenix Best Music Poll.
September 2013 marked Allysen's 5th release, the full length "Mumblin' Sue" on JellyFant Schallplatten (DE) & domestically on the eclectic 75 or Less label for CDs,
iconic artwork designed by the great William Schaff.
2014 saw the release of an EP Allysen Callery Folk Radio UK Session which marked the first official pairing of Allysen & musician/producer Bob Kendall, who provided a delicate psyche touch on 4 tracks, including a never before released track called "All in the Morning" & a cover of the Traditional "Blackwaterside".
Two singles were later released that year a cover of Bonnie Prince Billy's I Gave You for the music blog Slowcoustic
& on JellyFant Schallplatten a cover of Sybille Baier's The End with sweeping production by Bob Kendall.
The pair are currently working on a new full length album of originals with Kraig Jordan at Plan of A Boy studios.
Allysen tours in Germany and Switzerland, and domestically from Maine to NYC, playing such rooms as The Columbus , Club Passim, Pete's Candy Store, The Blackstone River Theatre, Stone Soup, As220,The Narrows Center for the Arts, The Red Room, Common Fence Music & Sandywoods Center for The Arts.
In 2014 she played multiple showcases at the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival, and was ranked highly by The Washington Post & out of 1500 acts made a list of 40 by NPR 's Bob Boilen for "Intriguing unknown artists".
On July 30th, 2015, Allysen sang on the Harbour Stage with the folk group Haunt The House at The Newport Folk Festival.
Early 2016 will see the release of her 6th full length album, The Song The Songbird Sings, on the German label JellyFant.
me and thee coffeehouse (View)
28 Mugford St
Marblehead, MA 01945
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