Singer-songwriter Sean McConnell may not be a name you’re immediately familiar with but he’s likely written some of your favourite Country music songs. As well as having some songs on the Nashville TV series soundtrack, McConnell has written for the likes of David Nail, Brothers Osborne, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley. He’s been releasing music since 2000 when his first album Here in the Lost and Found arrived and there have been another 6 albums and 3 Eps since then. Now he’s gearing up for the release of his eighth studio album, Secondhand Smoke, in February and last night he opened up for Ashley Monroe on the first of her two sold-out shows at Bush Hall in London.
McConnell may have only been on stage for half an hour but he made one hell of an impression. Opening his set with the deeply personal Shaky Bridges taken from Secondhand Smoke, McConnell gave the audience a glimpse at his blend of soulful roots and it should be noted he silenced the sold-out crowd in seconds. Armed with an acoustic guitar, McConnell let his talent do the talking and he performed a truly special set. By the time he got to second song Greetings From Niagara Falls, a song about being on the road away from his family, I had tears welling up in my eyes and I felt incredibly moved.
Just as I wiped those tears away, McConnell moved to the piano for Wrong Side of Town and I’m not ashamed to say that the blubbing started again. The gorgeous piano ballad is both deeply personal yet easily relatable, like so much of McConnell’s music, and I was captivated. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a show where the support act has the crowd in the palm of his hand. Just as newcomers in the audience thought they’d got a handle of McConnell’s artistry, he threw out a curve ball with the Southern Gothic vibe of Save Our Soul from 2012’s Midland. The soul that flows out of his body is electrifying and I got goosebumps as he delivered some spectacular vocal riffs throughout the song.
For his final two songs McConnell performed the title track from his upcoming album, Secondhand Smoke, which took the tempo back down a notch before ending with Best We’ve Ever Been from 2016’s self-titled release. He introduced the latter as one of two happy songs he’s ever written, which made the audience laugh. As the final bars rang out, I wasn’t ready for him to leave the stage and there were chants of ‘more’ from the audience.
Sean McConnell is a truly special artist and one that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. His music draws on many influences, even though he tends to be labelled Country or Folk, and as a live performer he’s one the best I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. He clearly made a huge impact last night as I saw many audience members clutching copies of his new album on vinyl, which they picked up from the merch stand following his performance. Please Sean, get back over here for a headline tour before the end of the year!
Set list: 1. Shaky Bridges 2. Greetings From Niagara Falls 3. Wrong Side of Town 4. Save Our Soul 5. Secondhand Smoke 6. Best We’ve Ever Been Performance date: 29th January 2019 Buy Secondhand Smoke