The most constant appraisal of singer-guitarist-writer Sean Tyrrell has been the one naming him "the genuine article", as he's among the few continuing an old troubadouric tradition in a very strong harkening back to exactly what that means. In the ancient ways, first and foremost came the story and then, within that, social commentary, the real message. Troubs, after all, designed themselves to both help relieve the commoners' misery by afflicting the comfortable and then stoke their peasant brothers and sisters to thoughtfulness and sometimes rebellion. Many troubadours were, let's face it, pains in the ass, truthtellers, muckrakers, Humanist protestants, and, perhaps not ironically, in more than one way responsible for the traditional view of the guitar, more often than not their only axe, as a device not worthy of classicalism and inclusion among the appurtenances of privilege. After all, if you couldn't stop seers and prophets without killing the bastards, then you could at least disparage their hardware. Thus, in minstrels like Tyrrell, what you're getting is a revival of the eldest of birdflips in the eternal war twixt the gently born and the rest of us
Tyrrell ranges far and wide for his repertoire, either writing the ditties himself, co-authoring, or covering previously scribed paeans by others, choosing songs that burrow beneath the skin. You'd better, for instance, be able to harrow your audience when taking on Lennon's Working Class Hero, and Sean's more than up to the task. Likewise, he puts a chillier and more haunting parka athwart She Moved Through the Fair and then reinvests You are My Sunshine and On Top of Old Smokey, which have become mindless children's songs, with the heartache they lost so long ago. Even though the lyrics to all cuts here are plain enough in themselves, there are hidden depths, and Tyrrell's voice, plaintive but firm, moves aside the manhole cover to let the ghosts out and howl a bit longer.
Appropriately, the musical accompaniment, though at times numbering as many as four beyond the guitarist himself, is spare and atmospheric, meant to keep the voice front and center, augment the emotions and not the rhythms, provide recessed complementarity, not distraction. Again, to reverse McLuhan, the message is the medium, and the troubadour is not an entertainer so much as it's entertainment that serves his ends, and thus is utilized as honey to entice those who don't even know they have hungers until hearing the song. The melodies lure them, and the lyrics keep them in thrall as they awaken, then provoke a return, again and again. That's precisely your part in the interaction, dear reader.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles