Upstate NY / Troy native Sean Rowe recently released a very well received full-length album, Madman in 2014 which showcased his songwriting ability. This year he tried something a little different, going for an EP of his acoustic translation and resonance of works from some well-known female artists. This six song EP under the title Her Songs recently made its debut April 28, 2015. It features Rowe’s take on songs by Regina Spektor, Neko Case, Sade, Lucinda Williams, Feist, and Cat Power.
Rowe’s uniquely baritone voice grabs our attention from the start of the EP just as with his previous releases. It’s just as much an instrument as his guitar, driving melody and emotion into the vehicle that carries the story of each song, embodying the tradition of a singer-songwriter folk performance. For just one singer and one guitar the EP is remarkably full-bodied in sound and character.
The EP is almost equally divided into two parts, at least in terms of the nature of the arrangements. On “Ode to Divorce,” Let It Die,” and “Color and the Kids,” Rowe maintains the similar simple sound of the original recording and relays the song and its emotion through his own style without much rework of the original. The other three songs take on a new life of their own. It wouldn’t be fair to slight the originals by calling Rowe’s take on them better; rather they are fresh, wholesome, and creative parallels to the originals. “Hold On, Hold On” is given a psychedelic feel through rhythm and “By Your Side” gets stripped down and smoothed from the original’s pop-ballad feel. Perhaps the most profound song is Rowe’s rework of Lucinda Williams’ “Soldier’s Song.” Already a strongly emotional song, Rowe takes it intangible to a new level. Williams herself remarked that “this is the best cover of any of my songs that anyone has ever done.”
It is worth noting that the composition of the EP renders a better listen through ears connected to the mind and not as the background music to your evening tasks. At just under 22 minutes it makes for the perfect break from whatever your hectic pace might be; listen from start to finish in one sitting.
Key Tracks: Hold On, Hold On; Soldier’s Song
Track Listing (original artist in parenthesis):