"Secondhand Smoke" from Nashville-based singer/songwriter Sean McConnell is an album that works on different levels. On the surface, the 13 songs collected here are filled with memorable hooks, confident and soulful vocals and catchy arrangements, making for a thoroughly enjoyable listen. But those willing to dig deeper into these contemporary folk/pop tunes will discover that they are thought-provoking, revealing an introspective artist examining his own life while observing and commenting on life moments we all share and can relate to.
A native of Massachusetts, McConnell first made a name for himself by writing for some of Nashville's biggest stars through a publishing deal with Warner-Chappell. He then wrote for and collaborated with prominent Texas country and Red Dirt luminaries like Wade Bowen and the Randy Rogers Band. Although certainly prolific with the pen, McConnell continued to develop his own voice through relentless touring.
This wealth of music industry experience pays dividends with "Secondhand Smoke," an album that equally showcases McConnell the songwriter and McConnell the artist.
Some of the best songs are the ones in which McConnell looks inward. On "I Could Have Been An Angel," McConnell speculates about how different circumstances can greatly impact how lives turn out. On "I Don't Want To Know," he examines the incredible depths of his love, while on "Greetings From Niagara Falls," with its beautifully soaring chorus, McConnell ruminates on how his music career takes him away from his love with simple but impactful lines like:
"Well tonight is, another one man show/Another microphone/One more vodka tonic in our room alone/You call and say goodnight/We both turn out the light/The split screen of this movie isn't easy, but it's gonna be alright."
McConnell revisits the impact of his career on his life with "Shaky Bridges." This standout track, which incorporates acoustic guitar, harmonica and powerful backing vocals courtesy of the McCrary Sisters to invoke folk and gospel music, takes an honest look at career choices while pondering inwardly, "What are you willing to compromise?"
Not everything here is so serious. "Another Song About A Broken Heart" is a simple, straightforward tune that would be at home on contemporary country radio, and the swirling "Alien" is a vocal-driven bright little piece of sunshine that could easily come from hook-driven power pop bands like Fountains of Wayne.
"Secondhand Smoke" is the kind of album that could appeal to a broad audience, making McConnell an artist to keep an eye on.