What do you get when you combine youthful exuberance, guitar and vocal maturity beyond their years, and a dedication to focus? Sean Costello, and very few others. Following a lengthy stint with Susan Tedeschi as guitarist and bandleader, Costello struck out on his own path and we're all that much better off having his talents as the main ingredient, the youngblood has a lot worth listening to. This CD is Sean's third, and his best yet, without question. Alongside the road-hardened young veteran (an uncommon, yet truthful description) is a tough and steady band consisting of Paul Linden's harp and piano work, Matt Wauchope on organ and piano as well, plus Melvin Zachary and Terrence Prather nailing down the rhythm chores. A few guests step in here and there adding well-rounded horns and some tight vocalizing, but this show belongs rightly to Costello and his cohorts from jump.
Kicking off with Jody Williams' instrumental gem, the title track, Costello gets right to business and shows he's no slouch with his guitar. From the intro of Prather's snare snap and buzz roll, Costello jumps in with searing guitar that builds gracefully leading to a tasty piano solo by Wauchope. The soul-drenched Mike Bloomfield/Nick Gravenites piece, "You're Killing My Love," features Costello's voice, and there's more than a hint of Otis Rush in both his vocals and strong guitar. The first original comes in the form of "Don't Be Reckless With My Heart," proving the kid can not only sing and play serious blues, he can also write with a grizzled edge. Linden lays some Jimmy Reed-style harp over the throbbing backbeat and there's little question that this machine is a well-oiled one. "You're A Part Of Me," from the pens of Costello and Linden, focuses heavily on a storming vocal, and the Willie Dixon, by-way-of Jimmy Rogers, "One Kiss," sheds light on the band's determination to keeping tradition alive.
There's no doubting Costello's affirmation of 1950's guitar wizards, and his cover of Buddy Guy's "No Lie" is handled with the wherewithal of a veteran twice his age; Costello's guitar ricochets around the gravel-like vocal and stabs with a restrained fury during the solo spots. Paul Linden takes center-stage for "The Plumber," a breakneck harp piece with plenty of flash, and lesser hands tackling a James Brown diamond would be grave danger, yet "I Want You So Bad" comes off with a potency not heard since the original. Costello then nods to an obvious influence blazing through Otis Rush's "It Takes Time," again with a voice that belies his age, and shattering, explosive guitar. "Miles Away," written by Costello and Wauchope, features a funked-up New Orleans groove, sharp horn charts, and crafty lyrics, then it's on to "Low Life Blues," another fine Costello-penned piece with a relaxed feel and heavily overdriven six-string work. They tear through the Stax-infected "You Can't Win With A Losing Hand," and the disc closes out gracefully with Costello playing acoustic guitar on J.B. Lenoir's "Good Advice," featuring some heartfelt vocals.
There's a lot of young talent around laying claim to blues roots, but a very few match the class of Sean Costello when put under the microscope. He's studied and learned his craft from the cream of yesterday's genius. His guitar playing takes the knife-edge of Otis Rush, the flair of Magic Sam, and the rhythmic sense of Eddie Taylor, all combining to come up with a unique style. His voice has matured impressively, and when you sound as strong as Otis Rush, or Duke Robillard, as on "Don't Be Reckless," there's nothing lacking anywhere. The band plays sympathetically, and when called on to step forward, they all handle the spotlight with ease. Sean Costello is on the way to the top, and with "moanin' for molasses," he has dished out a full-fledged work of art with a maturity that defies accurate description.
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