There are CDs you can spin the first time and know they are destined for greatness. This is certainly one of them. Featuring an amazing British singer, songwriter and guitar player and a fantastic backing band, this CD has already garnered recognition and it will continue to.
Hailing from the Northeast side of the UK, Sewell is a fixture on both sides of the Atlantic. His guitar and vocals are throwbacks to the style of Mark Knopfler. His style moves from subdued restraint to an all out rocking blues attack and he gives the listener a varied and sweet sound no matter what his approach.
Joining Sewell as Janis Ian on piano and vocals along with Ian, Tracy Nelson, Vickie Carrico, Mia Moravis, Chris McCartie and Trevor Brewis on backing vocals. Justin Kimball and Dave Robinson are on bass, Sean O’Brien Smith is on upright bass, Trevor Brewis is on drums, Kellen Michael Wenrich is on fiddle and the B3 Hammond is manned by Tim McDonald. Sewell is on vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass and keys.
Sewell visits the hill country to open the set. “Some Day” is a haunting song where fiddle and echoing vocals trade licks to open and then the electric guitar and the band enter with energy as Sewell and Company sing that someday things will change and folks will treat each other right. It’s a big number and sets a high bar to follow; Sewell and the band are up to the task. “Mountain Of Gold” is a nice, slow, country blues ballad that follows and changes the tone. Sewell is on keys and fills in a bit on acoustic guitar on this somber and cool piece. The duet with Janis Ian is next. “Fade to Grey” is stark, jazzy, and impressive. Piano and guitar spar along with the two of them vocally bantering; there is a sublime brushed back beat keeping things moving. There is a huge, old-school vibe to the cut that just makes the song even more intriguing. I could listen to this cut on replay for hours on end.
“Matter of Time” has lead guitar and vocals that could easily be right out of a Dire Straits song. A medium tempo-ed piece, it’s a big, dark and tasty blues rocker that builds and builds to a slick fade. A duet with Tracy Nelson is up next. Entitled “Long Time Ago,” it is another thoughtful and nicely done frootsy ballad. Nelson’s vocals can still make the hair stand up on my arms and Sewell is up to taking on the challenge of singing with her in this pretty and sultry cut. “You Ain’t What I’m Looking For” takes things up several notches to a swinging and jumping song. The guitar stings, the piano and organ jump and jive, the bass is slick and the band is tight as Sewell blazes on vocals and guitar. Sewell next takes us to the country with the fiddle and guitar setting the tone as he growls out the lyrics to “Tear It Down.” The guitar plays behind the fiddle, adding depth ; the fiddle and guitar take on a pedal steel tone with the organ behind them. It’s a beautifully done number.
“Stand Next To Him” is a rodeo of music. The beat sets the tone like stallions at full gallop. The fiddle blows like a gale force wind behind the beat and the guitar blazes as Sewell’s vocals moan and growl along with the instrumentals. Very cool country blues rock here. Next up is “The Way You Are,” taking the tempo back down as guitar and vocals go through the paces of describing a relationship full of broken hearts.
The mood shifts positively with “Blanket Of Hope” as Sewell shifts to a bouncy and upbeat tone and meter and the ladies and B3 back him with a church-like approach. The album concludes with “Shadows,” a cut done live in one take with Janis Ian on piano. Trevor’s vocals and Ian’s piano are restrained and subdued as Sewell displays strong emotions in a song about how the woman he sings of chases the shadows out of his life.
Geoff Wilbourn produced this CD. Few can produce an album as well as he can; this is one of his best albums and is even perhaps is his finest. The range of rootsy songs, the depth of vocal interplay, and the layering of the instrumentals make this one fine album.
Sewell is a fantastic musician who will garner lots of attention with this great album. It is one of my favorites for 2017 and it will certainly make it’s way into the short lists of this years best as awards season rolls around. I strongly urge that you add this to your music collection– you will not regret the decision!