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Big Names Back Indie Debut Release 

Sean Walshe launches his debut album with the help of some big names in music

Every so often, the release of an artist’s debut album reveals a feel-good story in the music industry. And this is a one of the best!


It tells how Sean Walshe, a 61-year-old singer-songwriter, managed to get his first release produced by Rob Fraboni, a legend in the recording industry who has, quite literally, mixed with the greatest names in music – the likes of Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton to name a few. Indeed, Richards has labelled him “a genius” and “one of the best sound engineers you can ever meet.”


Fraboni, now 72, produced, mixed and mastered Walshe’s album American Son which was released on April 12. It is an intriguing blues/roots/rock mix of 13 tracks which ranges from horns and strings on a pre-released single “I’ll Believe in You” to a fascinating orchestral –

 and somewhat-respectful - interpretation of “The Lord’s Prayer” (Our Father).


Walshe persuaded his long-time friend Fraboni to produce the album, having sent him the demo after writing and sequencing all songs. “Rob made some calls for a band,“ he told Crossroads. “And I’m spoiled with musicians.”


He certainly was, with some of the best session/backing men in the business joining him for the recordings at Rax Trax Studio, Chicago, and Bill’s Studio in Los Angeles. There was John Mellencamp’s drummer Kenny Aronoff, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones collaborator Blondie Chaplin on guitar and vocal, Ivan Neville, son of Aaron, on keyboards and Nick Tremulis, the man known as the “music mayor of Chicago,” on guitar and arrangements.


All had rubbed shoulders with Fraboni – and his acclaimed stars - whether it be while he was at the helm, or thereabouts, of various outfits like Shangri-La Studios, CA, in the seventies, Island Records, NY, in the eighties and Domino Records in the mid-nineties. And, of course, this was the man who worked hand-in-hand with Martin Scorsese on the soundtrack of The Last Waltz, considered the greatest concert film ever made.

Producer Rob Fraboni has mixed with the best in the business

Walshe's relationship with Fraboni dates back 25 years when the pair worked on Sean's original album at one of Willie Nelson's studios in Austin. Even then, the pair lassoed some top-notch musicians into the recording sessions, including long-time Bob Dylan drummer George Recile, in-demand Canadian guitarist Bill Dillon and Chaplin. But it all came to nothing!


“As we were mixing the album, my life blew up. My mental health deteriorated quickly and severely. That was that! Nothing happened with the album,” Walshe told Crossroads..


The Irish-American from Long Island, soon quit New York for Florida and for the next 20-odd years he was in the self-imposed musical wilderness. The closest he got was managing the musical education of violent criminals in a maximum-security penitentiary in Florida. He then dabbled and “did well” in real estate before realising it was time to return to his musical roots.


“The fire never really went out,” he said. “By divine chance I called Rob at Thanksgiving of 2020 to say hi. He mentioned that he would be in Chicago the first week of December. I already had tickets. Met at Rax Trax studios to watch my buddy Nick Tremulis record his album. Told Rob I had an album in me and I would be in touch.”


The pair did indeed connect and American Son was born. There is clearly a sophistication in the album indicative of the work of Fraboni and Tremulis –motivated by Walshe’s insightful compositions.


The opening title track, also released as a single, sits somewhere in the Jason Isbell school-of-Americana. From a soothing acoustic intro, it takes its music cue from Aronoff’s beat and morphs into a likeable guitar-fused rock refrain with an edgy lyrical message:

Generations strung alone

Raised on welfare, lies and reruns

We have to teach them how to read

And to believe they can succeed


And Walshe’s insightful reflection of modern-day America gets down and dirty on “Highway 99,” a biting song seemingly inspired by the early Bob Dylan:

You’ve got braggarts and victims

Goody two shoes and vixens

Schemers and racists and liars

But enough the politicians

Breaking promises they swore were divine

Everything’s American about Highway 99


He looks at love from both sides. There is a bordering-on-spiteful tone, to “Epiphany #4” – I wish you all that you deserve/Knowing you’re a lying hypocrite in the end. This is in sharp contrast to “Like No Other,” a melodic, endearing ode to an Irish wife – She has a smile like no other/Friendly and wide as Galway Bay. John Prine, who was also married to an Irish gal – and had a home in Galway - could have written that!


Walshe’s soothing harmonica and his, at times, country-like drawl give a somewhat Americana feel to three easy-listening tracks – “The Vibe Song,” “Since You’re Gone” and “Emmet’s Song.”  And delicate harmony vocals, especially on “Since You’re Gone,” give added sophistication to this delightful trio of songs.


But it is the arrangement of “The Lord’s Prayer” – the album’s one-out-of-the-box closer – which takes musical interpretation to a different level. And enter another big name in Music: Paul Von Mertens, the Chicago-based composer/arranger who served as music director for the Brian Wilson Band, the musical ensemble the Beach Boys co-founder established in 1999.


Mertens would write the charts for “The Lord’s Prayer.” It begins a-la-Americana with Walshe gently reciting - to an acoustic accompaniment – a full minute of the prayer. It then picks up pace and instruments as a full orchestral arrangement – choir and all - gently erupts. By the end of the four-minute treatment, “Our Father” is in full hand-clapping gospel mode. It is though the prayer began in Nashville and ended in Alabama … maybe stopping off in Chicago on the way?


What is most intriguing about Americana Son is that despite all the big names in music on board, it is still an indie project, with Walshe fully funding the album and retaining all the rights. He says he now has a third album written and ready for recording.


“My plan would be to put together a phenomenal band and be prepared to hit the road and work hard for the next five years,” he said.


The sooner the better!


Paul Cutler

Editor Crossroads – Americana Music Appreciation.




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