“ Good God…wow…This is the best thing I have heard and felt in a long time. The spirit and
feel of this record is f…ing great…AUTHENTIC and real… Amazing!”
It takes a special effort to earn an accolade like that, especially when it comes from a musician who’s played with some of the biggest names in the biz. But one listen to American Son , the superb new album from Sean Walshe, and it becomes readily apparent that that critique is well-deserved.
“I have a vision,” Walshe insists. “It's bigger than most. Some may consider me naive. Others might look at me as arrogant. I would like to think that I am purposeful.”
American Son proves the point, courtesy of a set of decidedly demonstrative songs.. Packed with incisive melodies — the assured and determined title track, the rugged and resolute “Winds of Change,” the driving and deliberate “Fortune Favors the Brave'' and “Highway 99,” the commanding and compelling “Like No Other” and the Neil Young-flavored “Emmet’s Song” — it marks the sound of an artist who’s infused with the influences of classic auteurs like Tom Petty, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, and yes, Bruce Springsteen, but clearly follows his own muse.
Granted, those are heady comparisons, but with a supporting cast of extraordinary musicians — Aronoff on drums, Beach Boys and Brian Wilson collaborator Blondie Chaplin on guitar and vocals, the legendary Ivan Neville contributing piano and B-3, Paul Von Mertens on sax and arrangements, indie auteur Nicholas Tremulis handling guitars, co-production and arrangements and Walshe himself on vocals, guitar and harmonica, among the many — American Son rings and resonates with the steady sounds of authentic heartland rock and roll. Dynamic and decisive, it’s an unrelenting statement about the power and prowess of an artist who clearly knows what he needs to succeed and makes an assertive stance while gravitating towards that goal.
As the title of one of songs says, “B Who U R.,” Sean absolutely identifies with that mantra. “Free to be who you can be,” the song declares over the blazing horns that help define its delivery.
“I wanted to write an album that had the effect on people that albums used to have on me,” Sean insists. “I wanted it to be a complete package, flush with infectious melodies and searing instrumental solos. I aimed to share lyrics that would touch the listener emotionally and allow them to identify with the song, and hopefully even sing along.”
Sean has clearly succeeded. The verve and variety share a range of emotions and reflections that seize the soul, touch the heart and evoke feelings common to all in these decidedly troubled times. “I aimed to vary the template,” Sean continues. “I wanted story songs with a specific narrative, songs that spoke of the things we’ve experienced at this particular place in our history. There are songs about love and songs about loss. I also decided to end the album with a prayer. I believe our nation needs one.”
In fact, that closing track, a clear and compelling original take on “The Lord’s Prayer,” with a stirring arrangement by Paul Von Mertens, offers the optimism and affirmation he speaks of.
Produced, mixed and mastered by Rob Fraboni, the man behind the boards for Bob Dylan, The Band, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Tim Hardin, The Beach Boys, Joe Cocker and Bonnie Raitt, among many others, American Son was recorded at Rax-Trax Studio in Chicago and Bill’s Studio in Los Angeles and mixed at Carriage House Studios in Stamford Connecticut. The album was recorded by Rick Barnes and William Sullivan and engineered by McLee Mathias.
Fraboni himself sums its strengths up succinctly: “ American Son is a vital record that speaks with real feeling and emotion. Given its meaningful lyrical content, it gets better the more one listens. There are few records released today that are this kind of gift. From the songs, to the musicians’ passionate performances, this is as good as it gets.”
“It’s such a pleasure,” Von Mertens, who also does arrangements for the Brian Wilson band, concurred. “All the passion and lived experience put into it shines through. The heartfelt songwriting and performances from everyone involved make the music come alive…these are powerful performances beautifully captured. I’m looking forward to more great things from Sean.”
As for Sean himself, he’s determined to pursue his vision and make the music he feels he was always destined to do. He is, after all, a man whose drive is matched only by his determination.
“I've been in forty foot waves on a processing boat, six days from the land,” he insists. “I've been locked in the wing of a maximum security prison with 86 felons and no one there to protect me. Suffice it to say, I do not scare or get discouraged easily.”
To that point, he shares a favorite saying: "Faith is a four letter word. And it’s spelled R.I.S.K.”
Happily then, the risk and the faith have paid off.