From Keith Gordon,
Your Guide to Blues.
Sean Costello: A Blues Prodigy
Guide Rating - *****
Considering his young age, it's amazing that Sean Costello has accomplished what he has in such a relatively short time. Picking up the guitar at the age of nine, the young musician first pursued a hard rock direction before discovering Stevie Ray Vaughan and turning towards the blues. Costello won the Beale Street Blues Society's talent award in 1994 at the tender age of 14 years. He subsequently toured as part of Susan Tedeschi's band, released his first album when he was 16, earned a coveted W.C. Handy Award nomination at 18, and had released his third album by the time that he was 21 years old.
The Evolution of the Costello Sound
Through the years, Costello has toured constantly, and has been able to perform beside some of his blues idols, giants like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and James Cotton. Over the course of time, Costello has matured from a young, Stevie Ray-styled six-string hotshot into a complete blues artist. His raw, soulful vocals remind of a younger John Hiatt, though erring on the Muddy Waters side of grittiness. Costello's songwriting has also evolved through the years, as both a lyricist and a musician, his songs including elements of 1960s/70s-era soul, Southern rock, R&B, and Texas-styled electric-blues, all of which vie for attention in the mix.
Costello's We Can Get Together
We Can Get Together is Costello's fifth album, and represents his best work to date. A collection of rockin' blues and soulful R&B rave-ups, Costello shows his skill as both a bandleader and an instrumentalist while his crew displays a great chemistry playing together.
A slow, shuffling riff opens "Anytime You Want," Costello's gruff vocals wrapping around come-hither lyrics that are bolstered by a recurring guitar line and punctuations of organ courtesy of Rich Iannucci. The song is a sort of blues/R&B hybrid that highlights the best of both genres. Costello goes down the swamp with "Same Old Game," the song's Creedence-inspired licks and backwater Louisiana vibe enhanced by the singer's voodoo vocals and raw six-string performance.
There are plenty of gems to be unearthed on We Can Get Together. The guitar workout afforded "Hard Luck Woman," along with Costello's creative lyricism, stand out as a classically-styled blues number in a Willie Dixon vein. "How In The Devil" further displays Costello's deft hand, with Texas-styled rampaging fretwork a la SRV. Evincing a Chicago blues sound, the traditional "Going Home" features Costello's most soulful vocal turn to date, backed to great effect by a Gospel choir.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Costello's six-string skills are polished enough to stand tall with any of the current crop of blues stylists, yet still raw and rocking enough to excite blues-rock enthusiasts. Considering that the artist is still a couple of years short of his 30th birthday, We Can Get Together is an impressive, remarkably mature work. The band here is tight, supporting and enhancing Costello's original material while not detracting from the main attraction - the artist's vocals and magical guitar work.
With We Can Get Together, Costello manages that hardest of tricks - walking the tightrope between traditional blues and contemporary blues-rock - but he does it well, delivering an entertaining and multi-textured album that I promise you'll play over and over again.
RICK "SHAQ" GOLDSTEIN SAYS: "I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE OF "ELECTRIC-BLUES"... AND ITS NAME IS SEAN COSTELLO!", March 9, 2008
By Rick Goldstein "Rick "Shaq" Goldstein" (Danville, Ca, USA)
I have probably spent half of my free time the past two decades researching and looking for new electric blues performers. With this CD I feel like I have struck oil and found gold! Sean Costello was born in Philadelphia in 1979 and moved to Atlanta when he was nine. By the time he was seventeen he was playing with Susan Tedeschi, and performed on her GOLD-CERTIFIED debut CD "JUST WON'T BURN". Since that time Sean has jammed with such blues legends as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins and Bo Diddley among others.
This CD release entitled "WE CAN GET TOGETHER" highlights what should be the seminal electric blues breakthrough for this twenty-eight year old, who most certainly will be catapulted to the upper echelons in this genre of music based on the talents he showcases here. Sean has a voice that can be beautiful, growling and gritty... and still hit the high notes and low notes... all in the same song... let alone on the same CD. Every song on this CD is a winner, but to crystallize one or two is almost like being asked to pick out your favorite child. Song #6 "HOW IN THE DEVIL" is an absolute rocking "ROADHOUSE BLUES" classic, that could probably be used in any movie's soundtrack that includes a scene in a juke joint, bar, saloon, or dance hall. Song #8 "GOING HOME" includes some beautiful gospel inspired sound, and Sean's voice almost sounds like Louie Armstrong.
Another thing that adds to my admiration of Sean's work is the fact that he wrote nine of the eleven songs. The only advice, or actually a respectful request, would be for Sean to add longer guitar riffs on his next CD. This young man has the future of the "ELECTRIC BLUES" world at his fingertips, and it's almost frightening what may lie ahead!
It all comes together, March 8, 2008
By dickydo "Richie D" (Warwick, RI USA)
Merging his terrific blues guitar playing and soulful voice Sean Costello has made a complete album worthy of his prodigious talents. His previous self titled disk was heavy on the soul vibe but pushed his guitar chops to the side. This time his superb playing is in the forefront. His soulful vocals have never sounded better. Modern blues at it finest. The sky is the limit for this immense talent.
Let Me Echo!!!, March 2, 2008
By Olivia Jane
I will just have to echo the praise of the previous reviews. My husband is from Memphis and both of us are lovers of the BLUES!!! Sean definitely doesn't disappoint. He has great tone, great grit and emotion to match. This is a must have for music lovers and blues lovers alike.
Can't Let Go to this album!, February 28, 2008
Sean's got the chops to turn anyone into a blues lover. My favorite track of this album is "Can't Let Go" with "Anytime you Want" as a close second. I highly recommend this album for blues lovers and blues newcomers alike.
Best Overall Modern Blues Musician, February 21, 2008
By Deb (GA, USA) - See all my reviews
This is the best release yet of Sean, who MOJO magazine calls an "under sung and brilliant guitar player." Add to his guitar skills, his unique and soulful voice and mix it with some of the best musicians in the business, and you have a blues album that cannot be pigeonholed and one that represents the best of today's artists. What's even better about Sean is that he is even better live!! Try this CD you will like it!!
Over the last dozen years, Sean Costello has become one of the most exciting singer-songwriters and guitarists on the blues scene, putting a deeply personal imprint on classic soul, blues, and roots rock sounds. With his gold top Les Paul itself an iconic link to postwar blues heroes like Muddy Waters and Guitar Slim, and the signatures it bears - from Jody Williams and Robert Lockwood Jr., two of the preeminent stylists of electric blues - direct evidence of the passing of the torch, Sean Costello is unshakably grounded in tradition, even as he brings the music into the future, just as his soul heroes of the 1960s and 1970s did.
Born in 1979 in Philadelphia, Costello began playing guitar at age nine, about the time his family moved to Atlanta. He came of age early, appearing regularly in clubs before he could drive, much less gain legal admission, to them. At age 14, his winning performance in the finals of the Memphis Blues Society's talent competition had career-changing effects. First, it netted him studio time to record his debut album, Call The Cops, a collection of 1940s and 1950s-style Chicago blues. The Memphis trip also marked the beginning of an important association with another finalist, as Costello put his solo aspirations on hold long enough to contribute indelibly memorable guitar tracks to Susan Tedeschi's career breakthrough gold album, Just Won't Burn and, with his band, to back her on the high-profile national tour in support of that record.
Although Cops was well-received (Real Blues deemed it "explosive"), Costello went hard to the woodshed before his next recording, Cuttin' In (2000). The results were immediately apparent in a more mature, fully realized vocal delivery, and in a broader range of material that touched on Texas influences (Johnny "Guitar" Watson), darkly exotic Caribbean sounds ("Goombay Rock", a track discovered by accident), and second-generation postwar Chicago artists (the worldly, tour-de-force cover of "Double Trouble" marks Costello's first attempt at recording a song by Otis Rush, who continues as a wellspring of inspiration).
The release of Moanin' For Molasses in 2002 included increasingly confident originals in the Chicago and New Orleans traditions, and reasserted Costello's established strengths with powerful interpretations of material originally recorded by Jimmy Rogers, Buddy Guy, Jody Williams, J.B. Lenoir, with two songs from the Otis Rush canon. The inclusion of James Brown's intense 1959 ballad "I Want You So Bad" and Johnnie Taylor's slamming Stax side "You Can't Win With A Losing Hand" pointed to a growing interest in soul music first evidenced in live performances of songs by Tyrone Davis and Clarence Carter, and marked an ongoing evolution as interpreter and artist that would come to fruition on Costello's next project.
2005's inspired Sean Costello ventured further into vintage funk and soul sounds, including gems from Johnnie Taylor, Robert Ward, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Al Green, and the superb, genre-approved originals "She Changed My Mind" and "No Half Steppin'". His longtime interest in Bob Dylan shone through in a very personal reading of "Simple Twist of Fate" and in his own "Father", which sounds like a lost outtake from the Desire sessions. Costello's affecting delivery on the gorgeous ballads "All I Can Do" and "Don't Pass Me By" proved him to be among our premier singers of torch songs and standards while revealing new aspects of his
song craft. Tommy Johnson's "Big Road Blues" and the original "I've Got To Ride" looked back to the blues roots underpinning all Costello's work.
Costello cites four individuals as having directly affected his development as artist and performer. Early direction came from Texas-born guitarist Felix Reyes, whose Cats have provided fertile onstage proving grounds for generations of younger bluesmen in Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, Florida, and now Chicago. "He was a great teacher to me. I still think about the way he plays. He's the guy that taught me to listen, not to play so many notes, and chill out, and don't do everything you know all at once. He's a really good player, a good friend to me." Costello calls his apprenticeship with Ronnie Earl, conducted over several National Guitar Workshops, "a huge, huge influence" in developing a soulful, personal voice on his instrument. Later, Americana music icon Levon Helm made a tremendous impression on Costello, who gained valuable perspective on performing and life while working with him. Most recently, drummer Donnie McCormick, a veteran of the storied '70s rock and soul rhythm section The Dixie Flyers and longtime fixture on the Atlanta music scene, has acted as Costello's mentor. "He's a great singer-songwriter and performer. I've been soaking up his vocal style, which is unique, and learning about songwriting through him."
Along the way, Costello has had the opportunity to brush elbows with musical legends. He has shared bandstands with the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Kim Wilson, Johnnie Johnson, Pinetop Perkins, Luther Allison, Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers, Lynwood Slim, Steve Jordan, Willie Weeks, and Jimmy Vivino . In addition to Susan Tedeschi, he has recorded with Helm, Jody Williams and Tinsley Ellis, and his band was hand-picked to record backing tracks for gospel greats The Five Blind Boys. Most recently, Costello received acclaim as the primary guitarist on Long Time Coming, the Blues Music Award-nominated comeback album by blues shouter Nappy Brown.
Not content to remain at rest, Costello's growth never sacrifices the feeling he values. As he says, "Whatever I do is going to be very rooted in blues or rhythm and blues.
Everything that I play is just jumping off from that point." Just as soul and rock grew from the blues, fresh sounds enter Costello's repertoire as a natural development of his listening habits. A musical discussion with Costello is as likely to touch on Otis Clay, O. V. Wright, Eddie Hinton, Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, and Johnnie Taylor (his all-time favorite singer) as Otis Rush, Robert Lockwood Jr., Freddy King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmie Vaughan, or Lurrie Bell (his favorite contemporary guitarist), with Bob Dylan's work never far from the forefront. Heavy sessions listening to rock 'n' roll - which, for Costello, means Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis - played a part in developing the sound of his newest recordings.
Forgoing the comfort of his long-time band (a full complement that featured organ and harmonica or piano), Costello has for the past two years been playing in a trio format with Aaron Trubic (electric bass) and, most recently, Paul Campanella Jr. (drums), a rhythm section of deadly precision and efficiency. The stripped-down configuration not only forces Costello to work harder - "I am playing a lot of guitar, man!" - it lends sharp focus and an aggressive edge to the music, a set of raw blues ("Anytime You Want"), impassioned gospel ("Going Home"), solid soul ("Can't Let Go"), idiosyncratic pop ("You Told Me A Lie" filters The Beatles through the Chess studio), exposed-nerve ballads (McCormick's "Have You No Shame" is one highlight) that crackles with energy and a deep groove.
"Hard Luck Woman" an original song by blues guitarist Sean Costello
videotaped at THE LIVING ROOM in NYC by Anthony Pepitone.