Sean Rowe has a good voice. No, scratch that. Sean Rowe has a great voice. Sean Rowe has the kind of bellowing, resonant timbre that dreams come from. His voice comes not from the lungs or the diaphragm but from deep in the soul and lights up the most primal regions of your brain. It’s a voice that can anchor delicate, finger picking and riled up rockers, that can evoke classic R&B and woozy sea shanties in a single bar. In short, it’s a great voice and makes Rowe’s Madman a winner from the very first spin.
Once you get passed the first spin – and the great voice – there is a wealth of fantastic songwriting and adventurous arrangements. Rowe’s gift is one of momentum, a sense of propulsion and percussion, a feeling of urgency rippling under a laidback veneer. The staccato guitar and booming bass drum boogie of “Shine My Diamond Ring” is all lean menace and gnarled groove before segueing into the blue-eyed soul of “Desiree” and that sets the tone for the rest of the record. The styles vary while the tonality is so consistent, so dialed in that all feels seamless and the transition from gorgeous to gutbucket feels as natural as sunset. When the upstate New York native gets guttural on “Done Calling,” channels late Iggy Pop on the “The Real Thing” and then shifts into Leonard Cohen-echoing “Razor of Love,” his pipes cement their standing as some of the best in contemporary music.