11 Songs, 48 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Sean McConnell’s parents played coffeehouses in the Boston folk scene before the family uprooted and moved to Atlanta, where Sean taught himself to write songs on his father’s guitar. Now McConnell’s a Nashville resident, and his third studio album, Midland, opens with the slow-burning, country-rock title track, with warm with acoustic guitar tones and twangy pedal steel. Over this, he sings in his high tenor about a small-town girl who smokes too much, works too late, and wakes up every day at 10:30 AM. The melancholy in his protagonist’s redundancy recalls a young Whiskeytown-era Ryan Adams at times, but there’s an elegant restraint here and throughout Midland that’s all McConnell’s. Even in the following upbeat gospel-rocker “Save Our Soul,” the parts where he holds back are as invigorating as the moments when his voice soulfully wails out like he’s just been baptized. With a gritty slide guitar contrasted by pristinely produced vocal harmonies, “Novocaine” is a rare recording edgy enough to appeal to both the commercial side of Music City as well as its alt-country fringe.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Sean McConnell’s parents played coffeehouses in the Boston folk scene before the family uprooted and moved to Atlanta, where Sean taught himself to write songs on his father’s guitar. Now McConnell’s a Nashville resident, and his third studio album, Midland, opens with the slow-burning, country-rock title track, with warm with acoustic guitar tones and twangy pedal steel. Over this, he sings in his high tenor about a small-town girl who smokes too much, works too late, and wakes up every day at 10:30 AM. The melancholy in his protagonist’s redundancy recalls a young Whiskeytown-era Ryan Adams at times, but there’s an elegant restraint here and throughout Midland that’s all McConnell’s. Even in the following upbeat gospel-rocker “Save Our Soul,” the parts where he holds back are as invigorating as the moments when his voice soulfully wails out like he’s just been baptized. With a gritty slide guitar contrasted by pristinely produced vocal harmonies, “Novocaine” is a rare recording edgy enough to appeal to both the commercial side of Music City as well as its alt-country fringe.

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About Sean McConnell

A rootsy singer/songwriter known for his passionate but down-to-earth approach, Sean McConnell was born in Massachusetts, where his parents were both musicians who played frequently on the Boston folk circuit. At age 11, McConnell and his family moved to Georgia, and he began teaching himself to play by watching a video of one of his father's favorite performers, David Wilcox. (Wilcox would be a major influence on Sean as well.) Dealing with the isolation of leaving his friends behind in Boston, McConnell started writing songs, inspired by the songwriters his parents listened to -- Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, and Harry Chapin -- as well as the performing style of Michael Jackson. After completing high school, McConnell relocated to Nashville, Tennessee; he enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University, where he studied the music business. He expanded his performing schedule, playing venues in Nashville and in surrounding college towns, and put a renewed focus on writing his own material.

In 2000, McConnell self-released his first album, Here in the Lost and Found, and 200 Orange St followed in 2003. By this time, his songs had impressed a representative of Warner-Chappell Music, who encountered him when he sang on a friend's publishing demo, and he was signed to a publishing deal. His songwriting career soon proved fruitful, and his compositions were recorded by Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Meat Loaf, the Plain White T's, and many more. Despite his success as a tunesmith, McConnell continued to pursue a career as a performer, releasing material at a steady clip through his own label -- three albums, Cold Black Sky, Saints. Thieves. Liars., and Midland, and two EPs, The Walk Around and The B-Side Session, were released between 2006 and 2014 -- and touring frequently, finding an especially loyal audience in Texas, where he was adopted as part of the regional Red Dirt singer/songwriter community. His hard work as an independent paid off and in 2016, McConnell scored a deal with Rounder Records, which released his self-titled fifth album that summer, followed by the acoustic companion LP, Undone, which featured all of the songs recorded live and solo to analog tape ~ Mark Deming

HOMETOWN
Massachusetts

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