AMERICAN UK - "You Will Know When You're There"
Here is a record that provides a tantalising glimpse of Americana in Australia. McMahon, from Melbourne, has a distinctive voice that resonates here – wistful at times, but always a winning, must listen to, and thoughtful sound. He has gathered around him, with producer Roger Bergodaz, a team of interesting Australian musicians including Kelly Day, Freya Josephine Hollick and Matt Dixon.
At once, what captures the listener, is the appealing tone of McMahon’s voice, its thoughtful nature. On the first track, ‘One Foot Out the Door,’ – a love song – there are conveyed in a lonesome, winning way, implied narrative clues about the situation: “It happens every time…” “Who are you trying to fool?” And the lasting image of “When you walk through the door…” More than enough to capture your attention and lead you on. ‘Angel At Your Back,’ the second track, has McMahon strumming the guitar effectively, his voice intoning: “There’s a hunger in your heart / That you can’t satisfy!” And “An angel at your back” with “Another by your side.” A satisfying, well produced, song.
‘Outsider Blues,’ another outstanding piece of music confirms the drive of the record and its musical and lyrical depth. Here is the story of an emotional relationship. The unease of “When you walk through the door” followed by the sadness of the reaction: “So. I’m going back outside.” The almost orchestral arrangement at this stage backs up this feeling, and you are left with the shattered protagonist, “unable to shake the news,” “coming back / To the lonely outside blues.” This is high performance, moving lyricism.
‘Just For An Hour’ is the sort of track that holds a good album together. It is just McMahon and his guitar holding the listener with his lyrics, his private thoughts really, about another singer he admires. “The way you sang on Saturday night/ With all of your heart and soul,” the way she looked: “Your hair shone like gold.” Her technique:”You paint a picture so well,” the effect she had on the audience: “You had us all hanging on every word,” the way the lyrics worked: “Behind every sign/ There’s another story going on,” and the profound effect that the voice and lyrics have on a listener: “If I could be anything/ I wish I could be that story.” Interesting how McMahon here touches on the deeper understanding of the effects of a song.
The title of the album is ‘You Will Know When You’re There.’ Seemingly, McMahon has glimpses of being there in this collection of his songs. Perhaps this is conveyed by the picture on the cover of the record of a lake in Castlemaine, two hours north of Melbourne where McMahon’s record label holds a regular showcase. Who knows?
Briefly, then, the remainder of the collection. ‘Just To See You Again’ features Freya Josephine Hollick (a fellow Blind Date artist) accompanying Sean. The chorus, “I really want to see you again” and the influence of Matt Dixon’s pedal steel, both have a powerful, lasting effect. Another winning track, ‘Spring,’ the pre-released single for the album, is just as effective. The time of year traps you, “Coming into bloom in the spring,” the progression of the pedal steel heightened by the mouth organ, sound and words – all in all a carefully determined and moving track.
‘We May Never’ with Kelly Day (another Blind Date singer) accompanying, is an interesting track with western images: “You are the gold tied to my saddle,” “the rain after the drought,” “the trigger,” “the silence that drowns in the sand,” “the sun that comes out in the East”. “You are right out there at the robbery/ With bare nails and bleeding knees.” A slow revealer of a song with its slow rhythm, the fuzz guitar taking the bridge and those unforgettable lyrics. Outstanding.
The last three tracks continue this feast of original ideas. Make a point of listening to the whole album. Sean is an established Australian singer. The time has come for him to be appreciated by audiences in the UK and beyond.
RHYTHMS - YOU WILL KNOW WHEN YOU'RE THERE
Melbournian Sean McMahon’s new album is a beguiling affair. It occupies a gently rolling middle ground where songs never explode into wild extremes. Instead, they nestle into a warm and gently rocking vibe. McMahon’s sound is bucolic and forlorn singer/songwriter alt-country, with a dash of countrified indie rock in the vein of Kevin Morby and Wilco.
The depth and sophistication of McMahon’s songwriting is really what comes to the fore on this record. The single ‘Outsider Blues’ is a plaintive Lennon-esque slow sway over spare drums and strings. “So if you see a ghost, getting around in my shoes, you know I’ve got ‘em bad and I just can’t seem to shake ‘em loose”. He’s certainly got a way with phrasing and a sharp enough pen to avoid any sniff of cliche in his lyrics.
‘Just To See You Again’ is a duet with acclaimed musician Freya Josephine Hollick and their contrasting voices work a treat as they conjure up a kind of happy melancholia on the track. Early single ‘Spring’ is an exquisite song built on gently undulating melodies, Matt Dixon’s beautiful pedal steel playing and a harmonica that recalls Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, while album closer ‘Show Me The Way’ has vocal melodies that will ghost your memory cells for days.
A looser, back porch vibe permeates the folky ‘Come Around Here’ and this, and indeed most of the album, has a real sense of familiarity about it. That’s down to the excellent musicianship, McMahon’s timeless sound and the relaxed and poignant feel of the whole record, from start to finish. You Will Know When You’re There deserves to be on end of year lists, it’s that good.
HAPPY - Spring (single)
Some songwriters have the uncanny ability of building an affinity with their listeners within seconds. Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Sean McMahon is one of these artists.
With his warm, authentic tones, McMahon will walk his way into your heart and stay there as long as you let him. On his incredibly endearing new track Spring, the artist weave together elements of folk, rock , Americana, and alt-country to deliver an earthy sound that belongs entirely to himself.
The new track sees McMahon traverse through immersive storytelling and folk-infused, heartfelt soundscapes to deliver a new single that feels simultaneously mellow and adventurous.
Spring is the latest in a string of consistently great releases from the songwriter, with his discography including a pair of brilliant full-length albums and a live album.
Beat Magazine - Shiner
Sean McMahon is often hailed as a musician’s musician which is a kind of backhanded compliment implying that the majority of casual listeners aren’t really going to engage, or that you need special industry ears in order to appreciate him. Its not all true though, as his latest outing with the MoonMen readily attests. Shiner is an interesting step for the Melbourne musician, moving from his accustomed country rock to an album steeped in Americana and alt-folk. And while there are moments of melancholy here the overall tone is one of upbeat hopefulness . his voice manages to sound both world weary and full of expression, as on the splendid Turn To You, and there is enough variety across the LP to keep you guessing. From the catchy opener House Of Mirrors to the eponymous closing track, there is a sense of covering many miles of heartbreak and redemption. “My black umbrella hasn’t seen the light of day in so long” he sings, and the cautious optimism rings quite sincere.
There is something reminiscent of Eels’ Mark Oliver Everret to McMahon’s vocal, and indeed were you to cross Eels with The Band you might have something resembling Shiner. As parents go you could do a whole lot worse. - Adam Norris
Sydney Morning Herald - Shiner
Sean McMahon is no newbie. His work with Melbourne country rockers Downhills Home, alt.country chanteuse Jemma Rowlands, and on his own with Western Union, see him regarded as one of this country’s finest country-tinged guitarists and songwriters, albeit one who’s never really taken centre stage. With new outfit The Moonmen however, Sean McMahon has stepped forward, and has hit his straps.
A gorgeously warm release, Shiner slowly blooms from the lilting vocalled sweetness of opener House Of Mirrors and doesn’t stop growing, the feel and shimmer continuing long after the closing notes of the slow-groove title track have faded. Bringing in former Downhills Michael Hubbard (bass) and Josh Duiker (drums), along with pedal steel maestro Ben Franz (plus Matt Walker and Rowlands on occasional backing vocals), McMahon has crafted an album that stacks up on all fronts – his guitar, at the forefront for the most past, is the album’s signature; his voice is strong but is used as a compliment; his songwriting is on point, tight and poignant.
Based in the country idiom but completely unafraid to meander down myriad other paths – dalliances with rock, folk and pop – Shiner has properly unearthed a contender, Sean McMahon shown as a master of his craft.
4/5 - Sam Fell