Sean Rowe is commanding – his voice, his presence, his deftly plucking fingers on the guitar. For the past two nights, he’s been creating more noise than I thought one man could on stage at The Fillmore in San Francisco, opening up for modern soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
When you think of soul music, you might normally think of 1960’s gospel, maybe some Otis Redding or the like. But Sean Rowe plays soul music, albeit a different type of soul – an honest, bluesy, folk soul. The thing about Sean Rowe is this: his distinctive, deep voice buries itself somewhere deep inside you, to the point where you can feel it reverberating around in your bones – especially when you listen to him live. That’s soul.
If you’re even remotely a fan of folk, alt-country, or Americana and haven’t yet heard of Sean Rowe, please remedy that immediately. His latest album, Madman, has a twang that sounds inspired by Delta blues, and will conjure up scenes of front porches, beer, and crackling firelight. I was surprised to learn that he was from New York, and not somewhere a bit more… southern.
On stage, Rowe plucked and strummed his way through a number of memorable tracks, with a few highlights including “The Drive” and “Shine My Diamond Ring.” He also treated us to some covers, including Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” and Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” both of which were crowd pleasers.
With his seemingly easygoing, down to earth attitude, Sean Rowe strikes me as the type of person I’d love to grab a beer with. It’s rare that you can look up at a stage and feel like the artist is truly being authentic. But Rowe’s music is of the intimate sort – the kind that draws you in and makes you feel at home.