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Sean McGowan: Son Of The Smith

review mcgowan x1 cong

This came as a download and we thought it was Shane McGowan, drunken Pogue; we were not expecting the “cor blimey guv’nor” sound of the latest everyman poet McGowan clearly hopes to be.

McGowan is a cross between sturdy man of the people Frank Turner and young voice of the streets Jamie T. His band is there to play music to deliver the lyrics so there’s not a lot of real melody – although it’s tight and polished in sound, with lots of brass (or at least synth sounding like brass).

Even though he sounds like a young Del Boy, McGowan is actually from Southampton and while his estuary accent is striking, he’s got a likeable sound as he belts out lyrics that sound witty (we’ve got no lyric sheet to read).

Mind The Doors opens and it’s a one-minute acoustic number about a bus ride (a metaphor for life, we think), where he wants to “drift off to a safe place”.

Cuppa Tea brings in the band, with lyrics about modern life: “You’re graftin’, workin’ late again / Overtime you’re rakin’ in / Double bubble / Money trouble got you on the ropes again / Your love life is sufferin’…” before the narrator complains about spending life on his knees.

Romance Ain’t Dead is a bold and brass-heavy tune that’s as much the Blues Brothers (vocals aside) as Frank Turner, and like the next track, Skin and Bone (& Blood and Moaning), is a good song; he’s got talent as a songwriter.

We struggle to follow the lyrics. On his social media page he writes: “It can be really difficult to understand what on earth I’m saying in my songs,” so it’s not just us.

In an interview he said he liked to talk about his personal experiences and the environment around him. “So politics comes into it naturally for me. I like people who speak their mind. Whether or not I agree with them is a completely different thing all together,” he said.

He seems to operate at two levels a lot: the opener is about a bus ride but also about life; Skin and Bone (& Blood and Moaning) is about his gran, but also (as far as we can tell) about racists and the fact that all human beings are the same, switching the title from descriptive (gran) to racists (a criticism) to humanity (a common trait).

Standout, at least for ambition and his ability, is Local Boy, a mournful tune with steel guitar clocking in at seven minutes.

People like this are always good: speaking their mind, keeping the wandering minstrel tradition alive. Fans of Jamie T, Frank Turner, Beans on Toast and of course Uncle Billy Bragg should check this out.

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