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SEAN KEANE - "The Man that I am" - Grapevine GRACD 276

Right, first things first, this is not the Sean Keane the fiddler, but the Sean Keane the singer, the one with the impeccable lineage and that instantly recognisable voice which could let him sing his way through the Galway telephone directory and still make it sound great. It's also a voice that doesn't compromise on accent - no attempt here to affect some false mid-Atlantic variant because that's how the writer sang - Sean stamps his authority on everything he does.

And he's equally sure of himself when it comes to choosing material. This is not a traditional album, but one of contemporary songs by composers such as Jimmy McCarthy, Tim O'Brien, Dick Gaughan and even Paul McCartney - eclectic or what?

Twenty backing musicians, including Arty McGlynn and Mairtin O'Connor, and vocals from Nanci Griffith, Kathy Mattea and Maura O'Connell mean that this is a fairly lavish production as well. To be fair, some of the string arrangements are not to my personal taste, as I tend to find that style a bit OTT, but there is no doubting the quality of the end product.

If I had to choose, I'd probably pick the Townes Van Zandt "If I Needed You" as my preferred track, but for those with any misgivings over the choice of material, consider this line from the title track - "let my soul lead, follow the sound". That's what Sean does here and a powerful job he makes of it , too.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.