None of this is meant to be a knock against Sean McConnell – I simply don’t hear it as the same style of sound. Elements are there, especially on his previous release Midland, a fantastic album. However, when I hear McConnell, his sound leans more towards a cross between Texas Country, an acoustic style country, and the Americana/Country style similar to Jason Isbell.
That’s not to say the album isn’t stellar, all the same. It’s an expertly crafted album with focused and direct songwriting. Songwriting is an area where McConnell has always shined. Even if you aren’t familiar with McConnell’s output as an artist, chances are you’ve heard his songs which have been recorded by David Nail, Tim McGraw, Eli Young Band, and even Christina Aguilera (she recorded a song of his during her run of episodes on the show Nashville, and he later released it as a single…unfortunately that song is not included in this collection). Yet don’t overlook McConnell as an artist. His distinct voice compliment his powerful songwriting perfectly.
The album is largely an album of memories: you can hear in McConnell’s voice as he thinks back on fond memories and how it has shaped him into who he is. Songs like “Holy Days,” “Ghost Town,” “Best We’ve Ever Been,” and “Queen of Saint Mary’s Choir” exemplify this – “Ghost Town” is particularly reminiscent of an early McConnell song “If These Walls Could Speak,” focusing on the memories of returning home and seeing an old hometown and the memories that it elicits.
“Bottom of the Sea” (previously released on McConnell’s EP The B Side Sessions) is a song about living life to the fullest, knowing that one day those chances will be gone.
The album closer, “Babylon” is perhaps the highlight of the album: it’s a track that can’t simply be discussed or described in a review: it’s one that needs to be heard. With that said, I’ll simply write out the lyrics of the chorus:
Look at what we’ve come to, oh Babylon
And tell me where to run to now that you’re gone
Where did we go wrong?
If I have any complaints about the album, it’s that it feels rather short, much like Jason Eady’s 2014 album Daylight & Dark. Clocking in at under 40 minutes, the album feels like it’s over way too quickly. It’s hard to say that this hurts the album, but it does feel like there would have been more than enough room for one or two more tracks. This is added to by the fact that three of these tracks were previously released: “Bottom of the Sea” was , as mentioned, part of his B Side Sessions EP and “Hey Mary” and “Ghost Town” were both on Mementos & Fortunes, a free collection he released last year which contained these two songs as new tracks and a few other re-releases. With that, the album amounts to essentially seven new songs. That’s only slightly longer than an EP for the price of a whole album.
Overall, I can’t recommend this album highly enough, especially if you never purchased The B Side Sessions or downloaded Mementos and Fortunes. McConnell has put out another stellar collection of songs that show once again that he is one of best out there and deserving of much more recognition than he receives.
I’d probably give the full 5 out of 5, but the shortness of the album as well as 30% of the album being material I already had, I’m cutting off half a star.