Sean Pinchin – Monkey Brain | Album Review

seanpinchincdSean Pinchin – Monkey Brain

8 songs/28.78 minutes 

Sean Pinchin, from Toronto, Canada, delivers eight tracks of  passionate Blues-Rock in Monkey Brain, his fifth album to date.  The album was co-written and recorded with JUNO Award winning producer Rob Szabo who recorded it live from the stage floor.   The raw and spontaneous live sound is evident in the tracks.  Pinchin is no stranger to the Canadian Blues scene, having been nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 2014 Maple Blues Awards and his 2013 album, Rustbucket, received numerous complimentary reviews.  Pinchin has toured across Canada several times playing countless live shows for the past eight years.  On his current CD, Monkey Brian, he is accompanied by Mark McIntyre on bass, Adam Warner on drums and percussion, Rob Szabo on backing vocals and percussion and Emma-Lee on backing vocals.  Pinchin plays guitar, stomp board and provides  vocals.  The album was mixed by Tim Abraham and Mastered by JUNO winner Phil Demetro, both well known professionals in the Canadian music world.  The experience and talent of those involved with the production of this CD are evident.  The musicians are excellent, the sound quality is crystal clear and well mixed and the energy of the live recording can be felt in all of the tracks.   It is professionally produced down to the last detail, even the CD packaging is impressive with a dark toned design, well-designed graphics and a photograph of Pinchin on the cover that shadows the mood of the tracks on the CD.  It easily rivals any contemporary CD released by a major record label.

There is a quote by Billy Gibbons of  ZZ Top that summarizes this CD quite appropriately,”The blues is life itself”.  The songs in Monkey Brain are about Pichin’s personal struggles with depression.  He wrote the songs throughout his depression as a way to translate his feelings into music.  That is not to say Monkey Brain is a dark and somber recording, it is really quite the opposite.  It is a powerful work by a talented musician who utilized his personal struggles to create some rocking blues songs.  The music borrows from many different blues styles, with a solid grounding in blue’s guitar roots music that Pinchin makes his own.  Pinchin’s vocals are quite impressive, at times very soulful.  His singing and guitar playing are obviously the sounds of a musician who knows his instruments and how to create a unique style while telling the stories of his life.

The title track, “Monkey Brain”, sets the tone of the CD.  It has excellent slide guitar riffs that are smooth, controlled and confident.  Pinchin’s skill with the slide is effortless, blending seamlessly with his vocals.  Definitely the work of a skilled guitar -playing vocalist.  The song has a sturdy beat with a solid bass line for him to take his guitar and vocals wherever they need to be to tell his story.  With lyrics like, ” I awake to my Monkey Brain, that’s how it feels sometimes…”, his vocals and guitar need to be in some very interesting places!  This CD takes the listener on quite a ride musically and lyrically.

Pinchin gets creative and rather unconventional on a few songs.  “Can’t Stand It”, with its strong beat and repetitive guitar riff  echos the lyrical phrase, “I can’t stand it” which is repeated frequently throughout the song.  Pinchin abandons and defies traditional song structure for an emotional and creative musical release.  It works.  He creates enough musical tension in the song with his skilled guitar and slide work to carry the repetative lyrics.  There is just enough of a blues taste here and there to place the song on solid ground and pull the listener into his passion.  “Goin’ Hobo”, co-written with JUNO award winner Steve Strongman, is arguably the best song on the CD.  It is a creative venture of swampy blues-rock, expressive percussive rhythm and a tasty chicken pickin solo with a side of blues that makes you want to pack up and go “ho-bo” right along with him.  The song is rootsy,  has some gospel flavor in the chorus and is really a fun listen.  The hook is so good in this song, you will be “goin hobo” in your head for some time after the song has ended.

Pinchin is masterful at shaping his vocals to the song.  His voice has a Lenny Kravitz sound; a bit soulful, a bit blues with a great range.  “Living in the Past” opens with a falsetto by Pinchin that leads into a rocking beat and strong guitar that both lead and follow the vocals throughout the song.  The background vocals by Emma-Lee are perfectly placed and delivered to add just enough accent to this song.  “Charity Case”, another swampy blues-rock track with a toe-tapping rhythm and “Hard Luck”  with a strong beat and passionate guitar solo both showcase Pinchin’s vocal range and skills.

The final two songs, “Monsters” and “Get Burned” show Pinchin’s skill on the guitar while delivering some intense lyrics.  “Monsters” opens with Pinchin playing slide on a Resonator with just enough gain to make the tone fat enough to carry the weight of the lyrics.  With lines like, “I feel like I’m losing my mind”, the music needs to deliver some strong support.  Pinchin has a great riff repeating throughout the song that carries the lyrics and he plays the Resonator with the perfect touch to give it just enough edge to be more roots than country and an added touch of old-time blues.  “Get Burned” is the perfect song to close this CD.  It is deeply toned with a repeating riff that goes from heavy to light as the song progresses.  The vocal intensity builds as the song develops with just enough effect in the mix to give it a little more shape.  This is a song of strength and power over personal hurt, which is the overall theme of this CD.   The CD was written during a time of emotional pain, it rises above that and each song is proof that the blues are “life itself”.  There is a line in “Get Burned”, “I don’t want to be forgotten and left for dead…” which is definitely not a concern for Pinchin with this CD.  Not only does he prove to the listener that pain can be overcome with music, but he also carries the blues torch a little bit further into some very creative, very inspired new songs.

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