I talked to Sean Costello backstage just as he was stepping down the stairs after his set that Saturday afternoon. During the few minutes we talked, he came across as intelligent and polite. As we shook hands, he asked me if I enjoyed the show, which I did. He kept calling me "Ma'am" and took the time to formulate honest answers to the questions I asked him. He says he realizes he's 22 years old and that he "has a ways to go". But, at the same time, he just wants to play, make music and honor the old masters while expressing himself. This sidebar is about a conversation I had with Sean Costello and his 48-year-old bass player, Melvin Zachery.
The Costello band consists of Sean on guitar and vocals, Matt Wauchope on piano and organ; Paul Linden, who also plays piano, and harmonica; Terrence Prather on drums and Zachery on electric bass. Both Linden and Prather, as well as Costello, are Susan Tedeschi Band alumni. Prather also spent some time playing drums with Clarence Carter's band.
Costello's show feature's two keyboards on stage, with Wauchope and Linden taking turns tickling the audience's fancy with 88 key trickery. At one point both keyboardists are seated and the result is a kind of "stretch-limo" piano sound. But the aged and mellow juice in this band belongs to the hard driving power of Costello's veteran rhythm section, Prather and Zachery. I congratulated Sean on being smart enough to know where to put the experienced musicians. His response: "I love those guys. I wanted power on stage and these guys do just that." While walking around the Bayfront festival grounds with Melvin, I asked him about playing with the "next hottest thing" in the blues. I wanted to know why old road warriors like himself and Prather are out on a national tour with this young white blues turk. And I talked to young Mr. Costello about his plans for the future.
Melvin: Sean is all about business. That's what I like. He likes playing all the time so he works to keep us playing all the time. He reminds me of myself at 22. I never seen anybody so serious about the business end of this. Sean knows what he wants and that's what's important. Not white or black, cause really it's all the same thing. You get up on stage and you got to play, regardless. Really, music is a revolving door. Eventually it all comes back around, doesn't matter whose playing it.
Jacquie: Melvin , what's your background?
Melvin: Soul music...blues music. I've played with Denise LaSalle and Mary Wells. Been playing bass 32 years. I love it. Haven't played anything else. Except in high school. I started out playing tuba in the school band. I guess that heavy bottom sound is what caught me, cause now I love playing bass.
Jacquie: Sean, what do you want to be doing 5 years from now?
Sean: (laughing) Well, ma'am....I'd like a better time slot, and in 5 years, I hope I won't be still carryin' my own stuff! And a bus would be nice.
Jacquie: Sean....what do you think of all this attention coming your way?
Sean: It's funny really, cause at first I never really took to playing guitar. I was about 9 years old when I first picked it up. But, then I put it down for a couple years. I started back up when I was about 11. I didn't start singing till I was 14 or so.
Jacquie: Was it always blues for you?
Sean: You know, rock music is ok, but blues is what I prefer. The first blues I heard was a Howlin' Wolf tune. Something just clicked in my head right then and now this is what I want to do.
Melvin: I've been with Sean since he first got off the road with Susan Tedeschi's band. He came back home to Atlanta and started playing at the local jams. He came to the one I was playing at about 2 or 3 times before he asked me to be in a band he was starting. I've been with him ever since.
Jacquie: Sean, what are you going for with your sound?
Sean: I like T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Freddie King, Johnnie "Guitar" Watson. For contemporary guys, I've been checking out Sherman Robertson's stuff.
Jacquie: What do you think of all these black female guitar players hitting the scene now, like Beverly "Guitar" Watkins and Cookie McGhee?
Melvin: I love seeing Deborah Coleman when we're out places. We often run across each other. She's a tall one, alright . I think black female guitar players are going to re-elevate the blues. That's where it came from(reference to Memphis Minnie)and I think blues is gonna come full circle and go right back where it came from.
Jacquie: Sean, what do you say to critics......and others who think maybe a young white kid like yourself shouldn't be out playing the blues.
Sean: I'm just trying to be respectful. I'm going to respect the old masters but this is the medium I've chosen to express myself. And hopefully, I can keep on doing it.
Melvin: I think people need to be re-educated about the blues. Really, some folks aren't even sure what blues really is. The success of Motown may have
spoiled the blues because it took all the attention away from the old masters like Howlin' Wolf and T-Bone Walker. Those young musicians out there who think you can't make money playing the blues...well, they're wrong. I can play any style of music for money. But, I play the blues because I love it.
The Sean Costello Band, recording for Landslide Records. New release: "Moanin for
Molasses", available at www.seancostello.com.
903.FM & 106.7FM
This review is copyright © 2001 by Jacquie Maddix, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.