Great Big Sea member Séan McCann appropriately bookends his debut solo album, Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes, with delicately arranged lullabies for his children, opening with "Somewhere (For Fin)" and concluding with "Don't Cry (For Keegan)." (The latter, featuring McCann's bandmates Alan Doyle on high-strung acoustic guitar and Bob Hallett on accordion, is, in effect, a Great Big Sea track.) In between, McCann provides justification for the "bloodshot" part of the title, turning in a batch of songs that poetically describe love and trouble, much of it drowned in alcohol. By the time of the fourth track, Rick Hartley's "Hold Me Steady," he's worked himself up to rip-roaring barroom strength, but after the rollicking ska arrangement that paces "Lazy Lover" (complete with punchy horns by Chris Harnett), he turns to the self-pitying, depressed drunk of the saloon song "Wasted," pleading with the bartender for another drink. McCann drives the songs home with his expressive voice, which varies so much it sometimes seems as though there are several different lead singers on the disc. (As it is, Jeen O'Brien does duet with him here and there.) He has a high, near-falsetto voice (notably on the melancholy "Gone Tomorrow," making it reminiscent of a Ronnie Lane song), a whiskey-edged tenor he uses most of the time, and a lower rock & roll voice that he uses on, for instance, "Hold Me Steady" (making him sound like Mike Scott and the song like a Waterboys track). Maybe that's the legacy of a guy who's spent the last 18 years singing harmony in a group. Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes allows McCann to step out of Great Big Sea's patented Celtic rock sound for half-an-hour, though, and longtime fans should appreciate the difference.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann