This review was first
published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005
A review of his album 'Loosely Based on a True Story'
With an imperishable fondness skimming through each song, it is hard not to be enraptured by this debut offering from Donegal man Sean Needham. His songs are so well structured that they can reach the nadir of a broken heart while also having the ability to elevate wholesome feelings. The album has a raw honesty, which is glossed over with a funky lacquer of mischievous warmth.
The CLUAS Verdict? 7.5 out of 10.
Having played with Tracy Chapman, Hothouse Flowers, Diana Krall and even Bo Diddley, it is surprising that Needham is not more well known. He has been clocking up a lot of mileage over the last year or so travelling across Ireland playing to crowds of all sizes. Whether he plays with his band (Satya Darcy, Esther Kjaer, Farid Basir and Darren Bowler) or solo, he performs his catalogue of impressive songs with a trademark charm. That charm is evident throughout the duration of 'Loosely Based On A True Story'.
Packed into the twelve tracks are instruments such as harmonica, bass, piano, organ, cello, drums, percussion, keyboards and mandolin, but Needham's sound is just as effective with just his acoustic guitar. In saying that, the usage of all the instruments helps transform the tunes into solid pleasurable songs. The drums and piano on 'Shame On You', and the harmonica and bass on 'Throw It To The Wind', are divine examples of how well the instrumentation works alongside Needham's vocals. His vocals combine the soulful edginess of Ben Harper with the mystical tenderness of Paul Brady, without sounding too much like those artists.
Just like any artist who starts off with an acoustic guitar and big ambitions, it is the quality of the songs, which makes or breaks them. When young Robert Zimmerman played in cafes across America, it was his capacity to produce numerous tunes that snatched people's attention and made him stand out above others. Needham has that freshness in his songs. He exhibits range in tone, (from the jazzy 'Paying For Your Loving' to the sombre 'Refugee'), clever use of delicate harmonies ('Dearest You') and a stamp of individualism. The songwriting is very impressive especially on 'Province Without A Soul' and the catchy 'Hey Juliet'. With good lyrics, superb structure, gratifying vocals and splendid back up music, Needham's songs have it all. From upbeat tunes to downtrodden ballads to snazzy numbers, there is a song for every flavour and mood on this album.
An album of complete fulfilment is rare to find. Needham has almost achieved that on his first try. Despite, such a valiant effort, this album lacks a killer punch. It sails smoothly throughout the majority of the running time but by the last few tracks, there is a feeling that things were wrapped up too hastily. In contrast to this small hiccup, this is a fine album and would surely receive numerous plays from any music lover.