Review: A fresh new voice in country leans into the moment

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Sean McConnell, "Sean McConnell" (Rounder Records)

One of the freshest new voices coming out of Nashville has actually been around for a while.

His name is Sean McConnell, and though he's barely on the senior side of 30, he's been putting out indie records since he was 15. He's also made a mark as a songwriter, covered by the likes of Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Christina Aguilera.

But his earlier material never touched down with this much force. With his new self-titled album, McConnell unleashes the kind of forward-leaning, acoustic adrenalin rush that picks you up by the belt loops and carries you away. He also slows things down long enough to mix in the occasional gorgeous ballad, but he makes that sound effortless, too.

From the vividly autobiographical "Queen of Saint Mary's Choir" to the wistful nostalgia of "Ghost Town," McConnell writes and sings with the polish of a much older soul. On an album with no false notes, he brings can't-be-denied talent to a song cycle built around "sacred moments."

"You held up your hands in the shape of a camera," he sings on "Holy Days," a pulsating psalm to holding back time. "Took a snap shot so you'd always remember the world we knew before it faded away into love's holy days."

But if McConnell is thinking about moments from the past, he's also creating new ones — and sending a loud signal that he doesn't need others to sing his songs for him anymore.