In a musical age where streaming leads so many emerging artists to just drop singles in the hopes of getting playlist exposure, it’s almost a miracle to discover Sean Walshe’s explosive, mind and soul expanding debut album American Son. It’s an old school rock, blues, soul and Americana fired album so full of raw, explosive playing, meaningful (and often incisive) sociopolitical commentaries and hope despite the collective despair we’re sometimes feeling, all beautifully coda’d with a jangling and powerfully uplifting heartland arrangement of “The Lord’s Prayer.”
By design, we’re not given much background info on the fascinating, multi-faceted life Walshe has led to this point which has inspired such purposeful, inspiring and wisdom imparting insight infusing everything from the lyrical, acoustic guitar and harmonica laced gem “Emmett’s Song” to blistering barn burning rockers like “Highway 99” and “Fortune Favors the Brave” – just the starter kit for 13 instant classic tracks
We’re given a quote about him being in forty-foot waves on a processing boat and being locked in a maximum security prison with 80 felons “and no one there to protect me.” So, yeah, he’s been through some heavy duty life experiences that might topple most men, but ultimately inspired his nascent career. Look who’s on his side protecting his artistic integrity now and offering gushing quotes to entice us into this remarkable listening experience.
No less than legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff (whose 17 years with John Mellencamp serve him rollickingly well in service of a similarly infectious roots-rock artist), guitarist Blondie Chaplin, keyboardist (especially dynamic on B-3) Ivan Neville, saxman Paul Von Mertens and guitarist/harmonica great Nicholas Tremulis – and all under the direction of legendary Grammy winning producer (and mixer/masterer) Rob Fraboni, who exults (as you will surely do when you check Walshe out for the first time), “American Son is a vital record that speaks with real feeling and emotion.”
It’s clearly a labor of love for these veterans in this day and age with an artist who in any other time would be lighting up the pop charts with these kinds of vibe. Though it’s definitely a full album experience that should be consumed completely in one sitting as we did back in the day, a few tracks lend themselves as sizzling entry points – including the hypnotic, spiritual and countrified, steel guitar driven “Winds of Change”; the freewheeling, harmony laden jangler “The Vibe Song”; the stark and melancholy, harmonica-laced lament “Since You’ve Gone,” and most intriguing of all, the mystical psychedelic reggae tinged anthem “Small Price to Pay,” which urges us to open our eyes to others’ struggles and take action to help others.