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Sean McConnell – ‘A Horrible Beautiful Dream’ review

The singer-songwriter continues to be one of the finest in music.

Sean McConnell is one of the most talented artists in music right now and it’s criminal that he doesn’t get more recognition. As a songwriter he’s had a hand in hits for the likes of Brett Young, Little Big Town Brad Paisley, and as an artist in his own right, he’s released nine studio albums over the last 21 years. His last album, ‘Secondhand Smoke’, was released in 2019 and he spent a considerable amount of time promoting it here in the UK, building on the growing fanbase he has here. Two years on from that album and McConnell is back with the appropriately titled ‘A Horrible Beautiful Dream’, which pretty much describes how we all feel about the pandemic.

Known for his ability to reach into your soul with his music, McConnell resonates stronger than ever on ‘A Horrible Beautiful Dream’. Possessing a voice that deeply effecting and packed with emotion, McConnell has the ability to grab your attention, make you feel all the feelings, and often shed a tear. He’s such a powerful songwriter and vocalist, you can’t help but be moved by his music. On ‘A Horrible Beautiful Dream’, McConnell is searching for the positive during what’s been a very difficult time. Opening track ‘I Still Believe In You’ is an affirmation that no matter how dark life gets, there’s always someone in your corner that’s cheering you on. McConnell’s voice is striking over an acoustic guitar melody and the song starts the record off on an optimistic note.

Across the album, McConnell pulls in all of his different influences and continues to forge his own path musically. ‘Price of Love’ is a more traditional Country song with a soulful vocal, while the stunning ‘Leave The Light On’ brings in gospel influences for one of the album’s most stirring moments.

There are also a handful of guest appearances too including The Wood Brothers on the bluesy ‘The 13th Apostle’, Fancy Hagood on the album highlight ‘What The Hell Is Wrong With Me’ and Natalie Hemby on the gorgeous ‘Waiting To Be Moved’. Of the collaborations the piano-led ‘As the Curtain Came Down’ featuring Audra Mae and Dan Tyminski is the standout. It’s a great example of how McConnell is able to use collaborators without taking anything away from the song still being distinctly his. His vocal on the track is deeply moving and one you won’t forget.

Elsewhere on the record ‘I Built You Up’ is a slice of pure soul with McConnell’s voice reaching incredible heights as he sings about putting pressure on someone to be the person he wants, ‘The Wonder Years’ is a meditation on coming-of-age, and ‘Used To Think I Knew’ reflects on personal growth and gaining life experience. The final song on the record, ‘Remember You’re Here’, is a stripped-down moment that hones on in McConnell’s remarkable abilities as a storyteller as he reminds you to appreciate all of life’s moments and never take them for granted.

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‘A Horrible Beautiful Dream’ is an absolutely stunning album. McConnell manages to affect me in ways that so few artists can and he deserves to be ruling the charts. As a live performer he’s one of the finest too and I can’t wait to hear these songs live when he next gets to the UK. If you’ve not checked out McConnell yet, this album would be a very good introduction.

Track listing: 1. I Still Believe In You 2. Price of Love 3. The 13th Apostle (feat. The Wood Brothers) 4. Nothing Anymore 5. The Wonder Years 6. What The Hell Is Wrong With Me (feat. Fancy Hagood) 7. Waiting To Be Moved (feat. Natalie Hemby) 8. I Built You Up 9. Used To Think I Knew 10. Leave the Light On 11. Getting Somewhere 12. As the Curtain Came Down (feat. Audra Mae & Dan Tyminski) 13. Remember You’re Here Record label: Silent Desert / Soundly Music Release date: 6th August 2021 Buy ‘A Horrible Beautiful Dream’ now

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