Sean COSTELLO & Band in De Blauwe Wolk at Zottegem (Belgium) Monday November 26th 2007. ( www.seancostello.com )
In 2003 we saw Sean Costello a first time in Banana Peel Jazz & Blues Club in Ruiselede, (Belgium), on September 8th, to be precise. The young man from Atlanta, Georgia, had already been singing the blues and playing the guitar for many a year. At that time he didn’t have the slightest difficulty in convincing us of his good intentions and of the talent that’s needed to turn these intentions into reality. A little over four years later Costello is touring again in Belgium and he is a still very youthful 27 or 28…In De Blauwe Wolk, club in Zottegem, home of a lot of different musical forms in different styles, he looked at our review from four years before with some distrust. It had never reached him. Reading it clearly put him at ease. The presence of someone who had seen him perform more than ten years ago in the States also tempered his anxiety. A good sign, as it indicates that Sean really cares about the impression he leaves on an audience. Concerning this Monday November 26th 2007 we can reassure him, because what we heard pleased us all. He hasn’t undergone a noticeable evolution as a performer. That would have been difficult (or: surprising): he already was a ‘coal black’ singer, an eminent guitar player and an excellent performer. He still is. But there’s evolution to be noted in the song material. He clearly sought to broaden his scope, still with the blues as a core. That’s what he promised a few years ago: his hunger for new material, as well covers as self written stuff, is intact. He dropped his older work (at least for this concert), though he still brings Talk Yo Your Daughter of J.B. Lenoir (from Cuttin’ In, 2000) or Simple Twist Of Fate by Bob Dylan (from Sean Costello, 2005) But everything was clearly focused on the upcoming CD, that due for recording in February (2008) He has also been working with Levon Helm, drummer and singer of The Band (still one of our all time favourite bands, together with Little Feat-cum-Lowell George!) Levon overcame his throat cancer and released a real solo album, the first in 29 years, the rootsy Dirt Farmer, with amongst others his daughter Amy Helm (who also sings with the excellent New York based Olabelle) This obviously left its traces on Costello. Although he’s first and foremost a blues boy he doesn’t refrain from tackling other kinds of music linked to the States. Costello learned from Helm the brooding and funky (Battle Is Over But) The War Goes On (to be found on Helms Midnight Ramble Sessions Vol. II) Sean has a killer version of this song in store. He delivers the traditional Little Birds, to be found on Dirt Farmer, with respect for the folky character. This ‘original’ goes way back in time, probably all the way to England. Costello also performs old soul songs and early rock tunes with great pleasure. After all, these are Americana related to the blues and he brings them as it should. And as with a number of his contemporaries –think of David Gogo– dearly missed Stevie Ray Vaughan is never far away.
Sean has quit the Jivebombers and is now accompanied by two musicians with an impressive service record, aside from their work with Sean, that is. Bass player Aaron Trubic and drummer Paul Campanella Jr. form a strictly functional rhythm section. Still, inadvertedly, they steal the show during Simple Twist Of Fate, already mentioned…What’s in a name?! Aaron’s shoulder strap suddenly snaps (,,Never buy something in Denmark!’’) and the bass falls to the ground with a loud bang, after which during a pathetic ,,rescue mission’’ cool hand Aaron tries to make the instrument portable again by replacing the strap with a piece of…rope, that’s clearly cut off too short. The two others frantically continue playing. Finally someone brings on another strap after which Sean…loses his g-string! He doesn’t seem to find a reserve in his bags. Finally, deep in the mound! Meanwhile Paul has begun to save the day with an improvised drum solo. At the end of this (already we’re two songs further up) he fiercely jumps up for the grand finale…but he has forgotten that his singing microphone is hanging right above his head! Blood on the tracks! Baawb would have found it an amazing scène. So did we. Roaring! And of course it didn’t hamper the blues quality of this relaxed little gig, on the contrary. We won’t bother you with the titles and a description of the new songs. We suffice to say that we heard, gives us confidence in the strength of the upcoming CD. But one thing is for sure: the blues is in good hands with young musicians as Sean Costello.
(Antoine Légat; original December 5th 2007, published in free e-mag MazzMusikaS; this translation January 15th 2008)