Michael J. Sheehy - Sweet Blue Gene
Beggars Banquet



"Sweet Blue Gene" is the most distinctly personal record to come this way in
recent times.  Whether or not this is a "successful" record is really much
more complicated than yes or no.  Michael J. Sheehy combines piano and
acoustic guitar with a host of guest musicians (Roughly nine, with varying
contributions) to produce a variety of genre-splicing songs.  While the
musicianship is professional, the real focus is on the lyrics, which tell a
series of mostly sad stories, crossed with romantic disappointments and
religious symbolism.

The first track, "Love Me," is a slow acoustic with tambourine and at first sounds like a generic love song with its chorus of "Just love me." A closer look, however, reveals that he is actually singing about a girlfriend's affair with another woman and his unconventional reaction to it- "If your girl don't make a fuss / bring her over she could sleep with us / baby, you know I don't mind / and if some night you don't want to come / I'm sure she and I could have some fun." "Oh Sweet Jesus" is a more soulful song and is almost painful to listen to, as he describes a romantic disaster that puts most other singer-songwriters to shame. The remaining tracks generally alternate between slower piano/acoustic numbers and more wrenched, emotional, bluesish numbers. A notable exception is "Auditory Nerves," which combines TV, radio, keyboards, violin and documentary-style vocals for an unerringly strange and difficult to describe song.
Sheehy definitely does the remorseful soloist thing better than most; each song tells some sort of story and doesn't subsist on vague analogies and general ideas to convey a message. This is the sort of album that makes one want to read through the liner notes to make sure they're not missing any of the story. Part of the popularity of songs like "Jinx Removing," "Message in a Bottle," "There is a Light" or "Dumb Fun" comes from the fact that, to some extent, every listener can connect to them on some level or another and find some form of catharsis in the music. Sheehy takes the opposite route and tells stories that are more specific and often more painful. While not necessarily better or worse, it does make it difficult to find an audience for this style of rather hard to swallow music. For those who do find some meaning in Sheehy's heartfelt, confessional songs, this could be a treasured album indeed.
...erick bieritz...

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