Sean Costello

At His Best: Live

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Atlanta's Landslide label only released two of Sean Costello's four albums during his life, but has been the most aggressive at maintaining, and perhaps even elevating, his profile in the blues world with two posthumous collections. The first wrapped up some previously recorded tracks, both studio and live, with a smattering of rare material. This is the second and, as the title specifies, it captures Costello on-stage with 18 heretofore unavailable-on-CD performances. The audio varies wildly from near professional quality to what sounds like a pretty good cassette recording at Buddy Guy's Legends club, but the playing is uniformly supercharged. Costello, who passed away on the eve of his 29th birthday in 2008, had toured relentlessly and really was at his best in front of an audience as these recordings, grabbed from 2000-2007 but never intended for release, clearly show. Along with his blistering blues guitar as evidenced on "T-Bone Boogie" and Magic Sam's "All Your Love," Costello loved soul and funk, and half of this collection features his versions of relatively obscure R&B material that feels as natural as the more rootsy Chicago blues he's best known for. Covers of Bobby Womack's "Check It Out," the Tyrone Davis classic "Can I Change My Mind," and Johnnie Taylor's "Doing My Thing" crackle with tough, occasionally playful energy and enthusiasm. Blues fans naturally gravitate to Costello's reverential yet fluid guitar work, but these songs show him to be a riveting singer with a gruff voice that sounded far older than his birth year would indicate. When he lets loose on Johnny Guitar Watson's "Motor Head Baby," he sounds possessed and his workout on Robert Ward's "Peace of Mind" takes the original and shoots it full of adrenaline with a guitar solo that's tense and brittle. He even gives the great Mike Bloomfield a run for his money when he tackles Bloomfield's "You're Killing My Love," a tune he likely learned from Otis Rush's version, and unleashes a feral solo that would be definitive if it was better recorded. Those who never got a chance to experience Costello live can get a sense of what audiences raved about and for those lucky enough to have seen him on a hot night, it's a terrific souvenir from a talented young blues -- and soul -- man whose best years were probably still ahead of him.

blue highlight denotes track pick