REVIEW: Trae Sheehan’s “Postcards From the Country” is Fine Craftmanship with No Showboating

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Trae Sheehan – Postcards From the Country

This EP is a fine example of straight-forward unassuming songs. Fine craftsmanship with no showboating. There’s nothing cutting here like Neil Young, but West Virginia’s Trae Sheehan also doesn’t have a whiney voice like Neil. There are no political overtones like the late Phil Ochs — Trae has a far more colorful tone than Ochs without the politics. The songs aren’t quite as clever as the late John Prine, as beautifully rendered as Harry Nilsson, rural as Gordon Lightfoot or lyrically diversified as Leonard Cohen. But hey, you can’t have everything. Sheehan has only had 3 full-length albums.

That aside Trae follows in the musical tradition of lesser-known singer-songwriters like New York’s Zack Thomas — “Never Been Good At Goodbye”

 

Trae’s “Better Off (Without You),” is the counterpart to Zack’s song. Both are melodically wonderful. These singer-songwriters may not be as well-known as Prine & Cohen but they mine a vein of delicate inspiration & skate liberally along the rim of commerciality retaining their artistic moxy.

 

This material isn’t commercially driven despite being ear-friendly. “Changed,” is poignant. “Heartbreak Casts” is attractive. If it doesn’t catch the ear of a listening audience it should motivate a famous singer to cover it. The only unfortunate ideal about artists like Trae is that they fall on deaf ears in some markets. There’s no controversy, no kick-ass tune, no personality attached to the songs.

Initially, this happened to New Zealand’s country great Donna Dean. In 2010 her song “Destination Life,” was picked up by Rhonda Vincent & nominated for a Grammy Award. Donna is an incredible artist but, only people in New Zealand, Germany, Oklahoma & Rhonda Vincent know it. Our loss.

“Overcast,” is moody & embodies all the qualities of a well-written ballad. The atmosphere is well-expressed & laid down. There’s little drama, but the musical ambiance is solid. Sheehan & his band are quite capable & the songs, though not all gripping, are focused.

The EP comes Sept 18 – 7-cuts: Postcards From the Country (Half Moon Records) recorded in Marlboro, NY in a stripped-down manner that doesn’t diminish the showcase. These personal stories unfold with strength & eventually, Trae – after drinking more whiskey & kicking some butt may one day be in the same clubhouse as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark & Eric Andersen.

He just needs a touch more vinegar in his words & tighten up on the easy-going approach. The voice is there. “Paris,” – about the misgivings of dating culture. Yeah, subjects’ others ignore.

The bare-bones band: Angel Michael Lau (percussion), Chris Anderson (upright bass), Rebecca Haviland (Hammond B3), Drew Fermo (piano & Rhodes), Max Hoffman (pedal steel) & Trae (guitars, vocals) with backup singers: Gules Asperti, Max Hoffman & Trae.

The 25-minute EP is available at https://www.traesheehan.com/

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