Sean McGowan 'The People's Music': A Review
Rising folk singer songwriter Sean McGowan and lead guitarist Dean have returned with the release of forthcoming EP ‘The People’s Music’. Sean was singled out for support from Strummerville foundation […]
Rising folk singer songwriter Sean McGowan and lead guitarist Dean have returned with the release of forthcoming EP ‘The People’s Music’. Sean was singled out for support from Strummerville foundation for upcoming music when they noticed that his track ’This Old Town’ consistently topped their download charts for months on end in 2011.
A year on from winning a national competition to support Shed Seven and getting unsigned artist of the week on “Amazing radio”, they played festival sets at Bestival and Strummer of Love and return to their favourite hometown venue for an EP launch gig yesterday at the Joiners Arms, Southampton.
The first track of the EP ‘Never Let Us In’ is a modern day Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ for binge-drinking on a mates’ night out that “rarely goes to plan”. In Southampton, a city with pub culture in its history, Sean acknowledges the futility of alcohol abuse, yet is at it like a Rolling Stone anyway. Sean’s fundamental message behind ‘Never Let Us In’ though is loyalty. A comic highlight in the form of an alcohol-impaired judgement…‘ I dread the thought of waking up in Shirley towers to like jock from Austin Powers’.
’Neverland’ is a lyrical tirade against out of touch powers that be who judge British youth without understanding them. Sean growls in frustration ’half the kids at school already pushing prams, the other half locked up with doors slammed, tell me what you understand, you don’t know nothing about my England’. A working class hero Lennon would be proud of. The line ’I will never sell-out’ tells you all you need to know about the man behind the music.
£5.25 explores our ‘living for the weekend’ culture, ‘well there’s 365 days of the year, you know we’re living for the weekend, we’re living in fear, wasting our lives on fast drugs and beer while the people we love will leave us’. An ode to the 9-5 wage slaves of the nation, for me this track could be likened to a John Steinbeck/Danny Boyle novel.
Sean is a smart lad. He’s taken his time over his work with no rush or compromise and this integrity will take him a long way. Having always had a strong stage presence live, I’ve seen him before at gigs; waiting patiently, people-watching silently. While others are drinking and cavorting, he remains focussed. Musically, Sean counts Billy Bragg, Joe Strummer and Frank Turner as key influences, even going so far as to cover Bragg’s New England at gigs. Rough, brutal and honest on stage, he reveals a gentler side in one song:
‘Slainte’ is a touching, coming of age song. Comparison to Southampton football legend Matt LeTiss takes a backseat to Sean’s hero, his own father, a strong flavour of how down to earth and sincere he is. Often a gig is never quite the same without Dean’s guitar riff.
‘All The Best’ is an acapella piece that really lets off steam getting personally involved with his audience. It’s a direct plea to the listener telling them how it is, cutting out the establishment that divides us. Take that X-Factor! A radio edit of ‘Never Let Us In’ smoothes over the intensity of the last track. The EP is only a slightly padded version of its live essence and double tracked vocals are a small nudge towards glossy production filling out the chorus from time to time but the bulk of it remains as raw and compelling as it is live. Sean and Dean have simply made a studio recording of their work without over the top production leading them astray, Sean explains:
This record means a lot to me. It’s about my friends, family, childhood and the way I’ve matured to view things. I feel it describes what every person my age has been through and is currently experiencing.”
If you disagree, go along to his gigs, where you will see the reaction of a diverse crowd of students, adults, workers, unemployed….Sean speaks for them all. Asked about the future Sean pondered modestly:
God knows what will happen with this EP. I’m proud of it and I hope people understand it in the way I intended. If not, life goes on’.
He is the voice of the people. Well, round my way he is.
The ‘People’s music’ EP is available from tomorrow, 12th November, here.