Twenty eight year-old Sean Costello died in April of 2008, only two months after We Can Get Together, his fifth LP, was released. Blues is sadder than fiction once again.
Only the crass and classless would--and have--read "he lived the life of the blues" tropes back into this record, but itís impossible at the same time not to listen to We Can Get Together as an epitaph, and an eerily self-conscious one at that. In one of the two well-chosen and -played covers here, "Going Home," Costello sings, "Soon I will be done with the trouble of this world/Iím going home to live with God." Or take the original "I Feel Like I Ainít Got a Home," where he growls, "I ainít goiní nowhere Ďtill the Lord says itís my time."
Well, it was Costelloís time, but it feels too soon. We wonít know how close he would have come to grabbing the brass ring of recording The Great 21st Century Blues Album, but he died trying and came close. Backed a skin tight, Atlanta-based rhythm section of Aaron Trubic (bass) and Paul Campanella, Jr. (Drums), with occasional horns, keys, and backing singers, We Can Get Together traces a musical arc from Chicago, to the deep South, and back again. Youíll find pile-driving blues (e.g., the title track, intended as an I-can-do-this-all-day-but-I-wonít album opener), Dixieland funk ("Told Me a Lie"), roadhouse Americana ("Same Old Game"), blue-eyed soul ("Canít Let Go"), and gospel here ("Going Home"). The best part, though, is that nothing feels forced, and the switches between genres and sub-genres are consistently surprising but never jarring. Costelloís voice carries the day in that regard; everything he sings is laid down convincingly and with a swagger that never quite bleeds into braggadocio. He moans at the moon like any seasoned blues shouter, but hear "All This Time" for his instant falsetto and rich vibrato. The vocals convey a relaxed authority and presence that create a stylistic unity between tracks that never becomes boring. Everything that Costello sings on We Can Get Together is blues, even when itís not.
Costelloís guitar work drives the whole project home. Always noted as a six-slinger that wouldnít sacrifice taste for speed or passion for pyrotechnics, his previous four albums sometimes betrayed a lack of assurance about when and when not to play. On We Can Get Together, however, Costello demonstrates newfound control and sureness not only as a guitarist but as an arranger. He allows himself to stretch out when needed and to rein in when the time comes. Guitar sounds are dialed down to raunchy and cleaned up to pristine, depending on the moment.
This is the first album that Costello produced himself (along with Trubic and Jeff Bakos), and he shines in this role as well. Atmospherics are just right--he even throws in a little space blues with the traditional "Little Birds"--and no song is too long. His life, only, was too short.