From greatbigsean: excellent article on "Lullabies" from Ashley Fitzpatrick of The (St. John's) Telegram:
Shanty man McCann
Wife, children inspire songwriting and personal solo album
Musician Sean McCann, "the shanty man" of Great Big Sea fame, is also a family man. Inspired by his family and life experiences, he has developed a solo release, "Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes," acknowledging changes in his life since his musical beginnings.
The opening track on the nine-song album is dedicated to his son Fin, while the closing is for his son Keegan. Meanwhile, the song "Wish" is a blending of folksy melody and light vocals, a feathery and warm tune for his wife, Andrea.
The other tracks on "Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes" deal with "the effects a child can have on a marriage or a relationship or a person's life," McCann said.
"I guess in my case, pre-children, my life was very different and I had bloodshot eyes for very different reasons than I do now," McCann said with a relaxed laugh.
In every song, instrumentals, lyrics, vocals, beat - it's all the musician's personal choices.
That was a first for the long-time professional musician.
"It was enjoyable to actually make a record and have everything just the way I wanted it to be," McCann said.
"And I guess what I wanted to do was to let people know there's a different voice for me and I think if you listen to this record you'll hear a very different version of Sean McCann than you will on a Great Big Sea record."
The album has McCann singing alone, sometimes paired with a female voice of musician Jeen O'Brien of Stratford, Ont., who he worked with when creating "Fortune's Favour" with Great Big Sea.
The mix of McCann's voice and O'Brien's is certainly new territory for fans, but an effective blend. It was selected for specific style and structure, to further connect audiences with the songs, McCann said.
"A lot of these songs were about relationships, so I just thought they would work better if I had a female (vocal). They seem to work better as a dialogue as opposed to a monologue," he said.
Then, there are the darker and more observational tracks, like "Wasted."
"I spent a few nights at that bar. And ... I guess that song is the imagining of a life that, if I proceeded in that direction for any further, I probably would have been that life," McCann said.
"So it's not really about me, but it's about what I could have been. It's about what anybody could be given bad breaks or certain circumstances," he said.
"I've met that person," he added. "So I know that they exist."
The track was one of two collaborations with Kalem Mahoney, a musician who also holds credits on the last two albums from Great Big Sea.
"He has some great melodic ideas," McCann said. "We get together occasionally, and that's the kind of stuff that comes out."
Reconnecting with local scene
As the star of Great Big Sea continues to shine, McCann said performance commitments both nationally and internationally disconnected him from the local music scene.
In creating "Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes," he was able to reconnect, recording in the city and working with artists playing the scene today.
Mahoney, his fellow songwriter, is also known for his work with The Monday Nights.
There is Mark Bragg, members of The Idlers and folk music veteran Kelly Russell, who works the strings on multiple tracks.
There is also Rick Hartley.
"I used to play solo gigs down at Erin's Pub and the Rose and Thistle and Nautical Nellies, and that's kind of where we all kind of met in the band, you know," said McCann.
"Rick used to play particularly every Tuesday night at the Rose and Thistle. I went over there one night on one of my breaks and met him and heard the song 'Hold Me Steady Freddy,' and wanted to learn it.
"And in the old days, how you learned something was you sat down with the singer or the writer and they taught it, taught you how to play it," he said.
Hartley took the time to teach the eager McCann, just learning guitar, showing him how to play his first D7 chord.
McCann would see Hartley perform just a few more times.
"I lost contact with him, but I never forgot the song," said McCann, who has included "Hold Me Steady" on his album.
In fact, he was given a recording of Hartley performing, a tape from Tony Ploughman at Fred's Records in St. John's, so he could hear the former Rose and Thistle regular again.
"I got access to how he would have done it, so I tried to stay true to his arrangement as well, as best I could," McCann said.
Ultimately, "Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes," scheduled to be released Feb. 23, was an opportunity for McCann to step away from bandmates Bob Hallett and Alan Doyle and express, well, everything and anything he wanted, without any sharing or consultation.
"A work of indulgence," he called it.
The indulgence has sparked something in McCann. Solo tour plans are in the works (no concert details are available yet) and McCann said he is also planning another album down the road, already having new material to experiment with.
"You know it's different, but it's very much me and it's something I've been thinking about for a while. And I'm glad it's there. It's great to have it out there," he said.
For now, McCann will be busy with the b'ys, putting off a Great Big Sea performance at the Olympics - playing Vancouver Victory Ceremony at BC Place on Feb. 26. Then, there are dates around the United States into the summer.