One of the things I love most about reviewing an album is the ability to introduce people to deserving artists and their latest projects. While Sean McConnell has been established in the Texas scene for years, I feel his work often gets buried underneath the more traditional sounds of this genre and behind other artists who have recorded his songs. Texas/Red Dirt music has become the melting pot of the music industry, and McConnell’s music has contributed to that. His latest release is no different, combining excellent songwriting with a mixture of styles that result in a beautiful album. Secondhand Smoke is the follow up to his self- titled 2016 record and in my opinion, McConnell has pushed himself into a new territory.
- Secondhand Smoke
- Here We Go
- Shaky Bridges
- Everything That’s Good
- I Could Have Been An Angel
- The Devil’s Ball
- Rest My Head
- Greetings From Niagara Falls
- Another Song About a Broken Heart
- I Don’t Want to Know
- Say Goodbye
- Wrong Side of Town
The album opens with the title track Secondhand Smoke, which gives us an intimate look into different moments of McConnell’s life. Then, the tempo of the album switches with an upbeat song titled Here We Go, but the first standout on the album is Shaky Bridges. The song is bold. McConnell’s voice is full of emotion and that, combined with beautiful harmonies and a meaningful message will take you right to church.
“Crossing those shaky bridges and blurry lines.
Deals with the devil at that old crossroad.
What are you willing to compromise?
You could buy the world for the price of your soul.”
We’re all faced with choices in life and McConnell captures that perfectly in this song by exploring how far we’re willing to go for success.
Everything That’s Good is a sweet, stripped down song. I Could’ve Been an Angel is a simply beautiful song and Alien is a faraway song, driven by the beat of the music. Another Song About a Broken Heart talks about trying to avoid the pain that comes along with end of a relationship. McConnell sings every song with so much passion, that even those who can’t relate to the story will be touched.
McConnell’s story telling shines with The Devil’s Ball. The song is dark and twisted in the most beautiful ways.
“Cause you told me you’d love me, on a cold day in hell.
Well I’m there now, watching that snowfall.
Won’t you go with me, to the Devil’s ball.”
Rest My Head is a hell of a song. It will have you singing along and playing it over and over again. Greetings From Niagara Falls is relatable to anyone who has ever missed someone. I Don’t Want To Know and Say Goodbye ask provoking questions about ourselves, who we love and why, loss… and accepting there are some things we will never understand. In the final song, Wrong Side of Town, McConnell puts every emotion out on the table for all to feel.
I often a have hard time expressing how music makes me feel, after all, isn’t that why we listen to and share music? To express what we might not be able to. This is not the album to buy if you’re looking for the traditional sounds of a steel pedal guitar. McConnell’s genuine songwriting combined with excellent production has created an album, that it is full of raw, authentic emotions that showcases McConnell’s ability to say what we all feel, and to me, that is reason enough to love this album.