Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve deep into the music of Sean Anthony Sullivan, a rising rocker hailing from Bend, Oregon. His new effort, ‘Shouting On A Blue Moon,’ is an ambitious one, clocking in at forty-five minutes and eleven tracks. He cites an incredible range of classic rock as inspiration. From the Beatles, Chicago, and Eric Clapton, to Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, and Otis Redding, he’s got an impressive musical palette that immediately piqued my interest. Let’s dive straight into it.
Sullivan’s effort opens up with ‘Can’t Put Out Love,’ a straight-up rock and roller. He’s mentioned previously that he’s a tech junkie, one that takes great pride in his productions. Immediately, a high production quality is evident. The mix is properly mastered and no instrument feels overpowering or out of place. More so, Sullivan’s lead vocals are well-fit for this style of music. With that said, the album truly gets into a groove on the second track, ‘Time In A Bottle.’
No, this second track isn’t a Jim Croce cover, though that may have been interesting. No, ‘Time In A Bottle’ is an original tune, one that employs Sullivan’s crooning a very Rod Stewart-esque manner. In particular, I dig his tight backing group. The eclectic, yet classic mix of the thick percussion matching the mixture of acoustic and electric guitar is perfect for this sound. Lyrically, the song is on point as well.
‘Kick Into Overdrive’ is an interesting rocker, but it may not fulfill its goal like its two predecessors. This was the first track where I noticed some vocal quips. Essentially, Sullivan tends to fall flat on some notes, especially when singing a bit low. Often, an impassioned rock musician falling out of key every so often can be endearing, even beneficial to their sound. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Dylan.) That doesn’t necessarily work in Sullivan’s favor, and I found myself avoiding tracks where it was noticeable. Fortunately, the blunder is recovered nicely with ‘She Renews My Everyday,’ a classy love ditty very much worth checking out.
‘Light A Torch’ is an intriguing number for two reasons. One, it’s infectious, amazing chorus. Two, its utilization of some compelling guitar riffing in the composition. That riffing and electric noodling extends in full to ‘Cellar,’ perhaps one of my favorite tracks on the album. Goodness, the composition of that song is fantastic. Vocally, the delivery is a tad inundated by aforementioned issues, but for the most part, it marks the middle of the album with elegant gusto.
‘Misery’ is also an excellent track, one that may accent Sullivan’s vocals the best of the bunch. This song sounds like something off a John Cougar Mellencamp record, a sound there is certainly plenty of nostalgia for. The reserved nature of ‘Only Human’ is equally complimentary to Sullivan’s sound.
Incoming: some of the most badass instrumentation of ‘Shooting On A Blue Moon.’ That organ intro to ‘Mr. Undercover’? Simply superb. In fact, the entire sonic landscape of this sound is a massive success. ‘Can You Help Us Mister’ showcases Sullivan’s ability to harness the power of an acoustic backdrop. Now, it’s one of his best tunes. The problem, however, is that damn tambourine. It’s far too loud in the mix, so much to the point that I can’t enjoy the song because of it.
Fortunately, ‘Breaking Down And Giving In,’ the finale of the collection, can give you a fix of Sullivan acoustic without that irritating tambourine. It closes out the album nicely, and has one of the better guitar solos, too. Thus, we find ourselves at the end of this eleven track expedition. How does the album stack up against the rest of the indie community?
‘Shooting On A Blue Moon’ has plenty of positive elements to it, especially instrumentally. As far as debut records go, it’s an admirable one worth checking out if you’re into classic rock. There isn’t anything particularly progressive here, and you’ve heard it all before, but that isn’t a bad thing. My only quip throughout was Sullivan’s lead vocals, which are pretty hit or miss, hence why this effort may have been a stronger five or six song EP rather than a full-blown album. It is worth your time, though, and certainly makes a benchmark for Sullivan’s future efforts to be compared to.