Push & Shove

REVIEW : The Push & Shove “The Rookie”


The Push & Shove’s powerful debut album The Rookie; a fiery combination of blues/roots/rock that is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon and Thin Lizzy; comes out today via Nine Mile Records.

The Push and Shove’s pointedly-titled debut album, The Rookie, marks the belated yet timely emergence of Austin-based singer-guitarist Sean O’Connor as a one-of-a-kind musical force. The Rookie is a powerful vehicle for the vibrant musical vision of the longtime songwriter, chef, independent entrepreneur and single dad, showcasing his keen ear for organic vintage grooves and his talent for deeply expressive, emotionally resonant lyrics.

Consolidating O’Connor’s longstanding ties in both the Austin and San Francisco music scenes, The Rookie‘s 12 original songs also showcase the abundant creative rapport between O’Connor and his instinctively soulful bandmates, who breathe organic life into the dynamic musical vision that’s he’s been developing for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been building things my entire life,” O’Connor notes. “I built Thee Parkside roadhouse bar in San Francisco, and I invented consumer products that reached millions of people, including Batter Blaster and Big Swig water. I’ve always had creativity in my professional life, and I’ve spent a lot of my working life in bars. But making music has always been where I found spirituality and soul, and now at 51, I knew that this was my shot to show what I could do creatively in something I love that’s not tied to rent and bar staff and inventory and selling. Through finding these players who share my crazy vision, the Push and Shove has become an outlet for that other side of myself that I hadn’t really shown to the world until now.”

The Rookie gathers a representative sampling of the massive songbook that O’Connor and his frequent lyricist Tony Mattioli have built over the past several years, reflecting the extensive life experience and musical knowledge they’ve accumulated. Such propulsive tunes as “Play Me Something,” “Hell of a Year,” “These Times,” “Write Themselves,” and “Right Side” feature infectious, organic arrangements that incorporate classic rock riffs and gritty soul grooves, with uplifting horn lines that lift the songs into transcendent territory. All the while, the insightful, introspective lyrics are balanced by the gruffness of O’Connor’s husky, commanding voice.

O’Connor traces his affinity for epic arrangements to the first rock show he attended: a concert by the fabled jazz-rock ensemble Blood, Sweat and Tears. “The physical power of the horn section really grabbed me and really spoke to me,” he recalls. “When I started writing songs and forming my own bands, that became a part of how I thought about music. I wanted to channel that kind of power.”

Photo by Mary Bruton

Moving to Austin after a lengthy stretch in San Francisco, where he gigged with various bands and led the nine-piece horn combo The Git Down Moses, O’Connor decided that it was time to build his dream band. Determined to foster a collaborative creative vibe, he recruited a talented team of like-minded players including bassist Will Tanner, also owner of legendary Austin club the Hole in the Wall; guitarist Rob Bernard, a former member of the beloved Austin combos The Damnations and Prescott Curlywolf; Rob’s brother, keyboardist Claude Bernard, a veteran of Austin legends The Gourds, and drummer Bill Coresello, whose resume includes stints as GM of influential local venues Emo’s and Antone’s, along with a powerful three-man horn section to help to build the expansive musical canvas of his dreams. O’Connor named the new combo the Push and Shove, borrowing the phrase from a line in the Les McCann/Eddie Harris jazz-funk classic “Compared to What.”

O’Connor and company had the misfortune of launching The Push and Shove in the thick of the COVID pandemic, initially limiting their ability to perform in public. O’Connor responded by forging a fertile family atmosphere, with twice-weekly family-style dinners that augmented the creative spark of the band’s rehearsals. The band eventually began playing frequent local gigs, but the dinners have remained a regular component of the band’s musical regimen.

“At our age, we need playing music to be something that’s rewarding and satisfying,” O’Connor explains. “And past a certain point, sex and drugs just don’t cut it. But hanging with your buddies while-creating something is very satisfying. Also, we all have to eat.”

Photo by Mary Bruton

Listen to The Rookie on Spotify

​Featuring: Sean O’Connor (guitar, vocals) Will Tanner (Bass Guitar), Rob Bernard (Guitar), Claude Bernard (Keyboards) and Bill Coresello (Drums).

All songs written by Sean O’Connor and Tony Mattioli.

Enjoy our previous coverage here:  Song Premiere : The Push & Shove “Young Boy”







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