Personnel: Sean McConnell (vocals, guitar); Danny Rader (guitar, banjo, bouzouki, mandolin); Ian Fitchuk (keyboards, drums); Jason Lehning (keyboards); Alyssa Bonagura (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Ryan Hewitt.
Recording information: Sound Emporium B; the Compound.
Photographer: Becky Fluke.
Boston native Sean McConnell has been a presence in country and roots music since the early 2000s, releasing a string of highly regarded independent albums and writing songs for major artists like Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, and Brad Paisley, among others. With his rich, warm tenor and melodic, pop-Americana sound, he's seemed poised for a breakout for a number of years. A decade-and-a-half after self-releasing his debut (at the age of 15), the life-long independent makes his label debut on Rounder Records. Recorded and produced in Nashville by Ian Fitchuk and Jason Lehning, this self-titled ten-song set offers a sound that is rooted in county, but borrows from the soaring melodic notions of contemporary indie folk. There was always an inward-looking nature to McConnell's earlier albums, but here he delves even more deeply into his own past, wielding his nostalgia in autobiographical vignettes that reveal childhood experiences, people he's loved, street names, and deep-seated emotions. From the haunted reflections of heartland rocker "Ghost Town" to the earnest "guitar kid from Hudson" in lead single "Queen of St. Mary's Choir," he paints a vivid picture of his life's journey from naive teenager to Nashville songsmith and family man. The production is fairly robust, though not so slick that it detracts from McConnell's soulful, earthy delivery. He's not really breaking any new ground musically and there are plenty of singer/songwriters working in this familiar milieu of introspective roots-pop, but McConnell's innate earnestness and hard-earned sense of craft ultimately carry him on this solid release. ~ Timothy Monger