The Salesman & the Shark
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
In the world of singer/songwriter baritone voices, such classic rumbling vocalists as Leonard Cohen, Mark Lanegan, Nick Cave and even Tom Waits sound like Minnie Mouse next to Sean Rowe. Only the dude from the Crash Test Dummies comes close. Rowe made a solid first impression with his 2011 debut Magic. A year later his sophomore effort ups the production and backing instrumentation. It brings additional drama to songs that already seem like they are being sung from lyrics written on stone tablets. Occasional orchestrations and female backing vocals are artfully laid atop Rowe’s acoustic guitar and when the tempo and beats increase as on parts of the galloping “Horses” and the very Waits like “Joe’s Cult,” the effect is like a freight train in its steely power and feral intensity. There isn’t much break from the gravitas throughout these dozen character driven, often lyrically obtuse songs, almost all of them sung from the first person perspective. And at 50 minutes long, most listeners will need a breather to absorb the album in smaller portions where the intricacies can be relished as the lyrical and musical gems they are.