On his previous work, the booming baritone of singer/songwriter Sean Rowe had naturally made a home for itself on the darker side of the alt-folk world, imbuing his songs with a brooding rumble that set him miles apart from any of his contemporaries. On his fourth album, Madman, Rowe decides to let a little sunshine in, brightening up his sound with elements of joyful pop that cast the singer in a whole new light. While the album still has the requisite nods to Tom Waits with the ramshackle syncopation of "Looking for the Master," and Leonard Cohen on the gently rapturous "It Won't Be Long," the most interesting moments come when Rowe decides to let his fun side out. "Desiree" feels like his interpretation of the Motown revival, as he delivers a song with a soulful, summery bounce reminiscent of the nostalgic R&B sound of the late Amy Winehouse. With its bright horns and xylophones, the album's titular opener, "Madman," has a new kind of levity about it, providing the album with a light start that shows off Rowe's playfulness as a songwriter. While it's nice to see Rowe explore more, all the stylistic gymnastics leave Madman feeling, at times, a bit disjointed. Despite this, the album is easily the singer's most accessible and eclectic record to date, so although it might struggle to find consistency, hearing Sean Rowe step outside of the folk paradigm and into so many different styles offers fans of the singer and his singular voice plenty to love.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney