By Lauren Sloss | August 24th, 2012
There are albums that you listen to and love. Then there are albums you listen and… find yourself struggling for the proper words to describe exactly how they make you feel. Your jaw drops a little. If you’re me, you begin, in a flurry, to draw comparisons. “Tom Waits. Leonard Cohen. Bill Callahan. With slide guitar.”
That, four days later, is my slightly calmed down reaction to The Salesman And The Shark, the newest album from Sean Rowe. The first day, I must have listened to this album in full at least five or six times. I sent the First Listen link to everyone I could think of. My reactions were comic book-like (and potentially comic) in their enthusiasm: WOW!!!! BANG!!! WA-POW!!!!!
I know, gushing does me, and you, no real favors. But if I’m being honest, I’d be telling you that this is the most excited I’ve been about an album in a long time. Rowe, with his unctuous, intoxicating bass baritone voice, hits on the cues of distinctive-voice bards before him (the previously mentioned comparisons are pretty damn accurate), while managing to easily slide in and out of various types of songs, of genres of sound.
There’s the slow-growing album opener, “Bring Back The Night,” which paired with “Flying” make for a double-header of soaring ballads, heartfelt without giving in to drudgery. Then there’s the clap-stomp growl of “Joe’s Maze,” pure Tom Waits with a less damaged larynx. The simple, heartstring-twang of “Signs” and heart-swell of “Old Shoes.” The seemingly out-of-nowhere twist-ready pop beat of “Downwind.” The apocalyptic rumbling roil of “Horses,” which inspires a trembling from within.
Listening to this album has me aching to understand how such a distinctive voice can fit so well into seemingly irreconcilable genres, and how these transitions manage to fuse together in a comprehensive album effort. Perhaps because through it all, the songs are shot through with a heady introspection coupled with a cathartic, straight-from-the-gut punch of feeling.
I highly encourage you to check out the whole album stream until it comes out on August 28 (some of us may have already pre-ordered our vinyl copy… ahem), but “Horses” is a pretty incredible track to start with. Guns blazing with a decided echo of “Paint It Black” in the strings, it reveals quite a few sides Rowe’s kaleidoscope. Keep in mind, though, that it’s only the beginning.