SEAN DEVINE – Here For It All (own label)

Here For It AllWith Here For It All, his first album in six years, the trebly-voiced Montana songsmith delivers a solid and instantly accessible set of country songs that lean to old school influences but have a sufficient edge to find favour with contemporary Americana audiences who like a little retro in their gravy.

Working with a core band of bassist Josh Thompson, drummer Anthony DiCello, Drew Harakal on piano, Chris Clarid on electric guitar and Austin Tripp playing resonator, he opens up with the twangsome title track about the start of a new romance with someone showing up and extending a hand when you’ve been knocked down and humiliated. Falling in love and how it changes your life remains the theme both for the equally musically upbeat ‘Crazy Too’ and ‘I’m Free’, both of which would easily get the feet moving out on the barroom floor while veteran honky tonkers smile over their beers

He takes the pace down for the more reflective, sparse and bluesy ‘Feeling Like An Old Piece of Wood’, which,  Jeff  Plankenhorn on electric slide, is less about feeling the years are piling on and being useless (though that’s there in the lyrics) and more about having roots, being part of the furniture and at peace with who you are. The first of the storysongs comes with the resonator-hued ‘Clay Bluffs’, part based on a story overheard in a Wyoming Burger King, about a teenage mother with a drunk for a husband making hard choices and trying to keep her ahead above life’s flood waters (“She was going to join the Army/But then the baby came/Now she’s living on the edge of Casper/Looking for a new dreammaybe she’ll just leave him here/To wake up in his mess/Take the baby and move in with a friend/Over in Gillette”) on a number that nods to the likes of Newbury, Clark and Kristofferson.

The latter gets namechecked in the fingerpicked ‘Texas And Tennessee’ which, taking a  classic outlaw country chug, is basically a tour of country music history from its early origins as it “Flowed out of the mountains/In the land of the Shawnee” through to the rising new stars of today as the roll call of legends from the twin states begins with the Carter Family and  takes in Jimmie Rodgers,  Tubb, Acuff, Hank, Wells, Miller, Cline, Reeves, Johnny, Waylon  and Willie,  Townes and Emmylou, Clark, Earle  and Robert Keen and ends with the three singers for whom he wrote the song, Ward Davis, Cody Jinks and  Sunny Sweeney.

It’s back to narrative with ‘The Palomino Mustang’, a song that has its roots back in the days when the likes of Sam Peckinpah, Peter Fonda, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan were neighbours and his father’s friends, and when Robert Redford and co-producer, Patrick Markey filmed The Horse Whisperer in his town, the latter approaching him to write songs for a script he had in development about real life horse whisperer Buck Brannaman, based on his autobiography The Faraway Horses.  From what I can tell, the film never got made, but this song (which surely draws a little on ‘Chestnut Mare’) survives, the lyrics paralleling a failed attempt to lasso the horse with a stymied potential barroom romance, offering his father’s rodeo wisdom that “the catches make the money, but the misses make the man”.

Things get specifically personal as he counts in ‘You Ain’t Coming Home’, a slow waltz song written as he was going through a traumatic divorce that never made it on to the previous album, recorded live here with Steve Bernal and cello and a clear emotional crack in the voice.

Here For It All ends borrowing a title from Marvin Gaye with ‘Can I Get A Witness’, “another song about a broken dream”, on which, featuring a piano, dobro and electric guitar breaks bridge, he draws on his experiences of growing up in a succession of Christian churches and finally feeling a need to find his own way, falling down but, as in the album opener, getting back up and keeping on keeping on, the helping hand this time coming from perhaps a higher power.  A fine return to the spotlight indeed; can we get an amen on that.

Mike Davies

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