Sean Rowe
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Sean Rowe


Band Alternative Folk


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"Selected to perform at SXSW 2009 & NXNE 2009"

- sean rowe

"Press Quotes"

“[Rowe has] the grainy, coarse, pulverized and yet full and lumbering voice of a blues singer or an understudy of Tom Waits mixing with the slick, agile, lyrical folk rocking command of a soft-spoken young urban singer/songwriter.” [Derek Sivers - CD BABY]

"Sean is completely unbounded by convention, trends or timeliness in terms of melody, guitar phrasings, rhyme….or reason. His voice is as rich, dark and deep as his lyrics and his melodies soar, reminding me of listening to Roxy Music’s “Avelon” as I climbed into the Malibu hills through a hazy firestorm with my son." [Don Wilcock - The Troy Record]

"Singer-songwriter Sean Rowe has the most distinctive, soulful voice on the Capital Region music scene. It's a rough-hewn, whiskey-soaked rasp of a voice — all sandpaper, honey and smoke. The kind of voice that stops you in your tracks." [Greg Haymes - The Times Union]

“Listening to Sean Rowe’s Album, Magic, it is hard to decide what is more magical-the dream inducing songs or Sean’s powerful, emotional voice. The big, deep and rich sound pulls on your heart almost to the point of breaking.”-[Chris Wienk, Program Director, WEXT-FM 97.7]

"As thick and sweet as molasses, Sean Rowe’s baritone is one of those rare singing voices that will leave you forever changed. Like Al Green, Van Morrison, or Gil Scott-Heron at their best, this is deep soul you’ll feel right down to the tips of your toes, and, uh, other nether regions."[Metroland Magazine]

"It seems almost impossible that a performer so slight and Caucasian could produce sounds so bottomless and soulful." [The Skidmore News-Skidmore College]

"Rowe has the uncanny ability in live performance to mimic a 3-piece band."[Metroland Magazine]

- Sean Rowe

"Recognition and Awards"

Sean has performed with high profile acts such as Joan Osborne, Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root, Eric Anderson and the Doobie Brothers.

Opening for Boz Scaggs, June 22, 2009

Finalist - Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition 2007

Selected by Metroland Magazine as the Capital Region's Best Male Vocalist of 2007

Selected by Metroland Magazine as the Capital Region’s Best Solo Artist of 2004.

Recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Unrestricted Artist Grant (More than 4,000 people applied)

Winner of the 2004 Music for Miracles Songwriting Contest for the song “Duct Tape Man”

Winner of the April 2004 Song of the Month Songwriting Contest for the song “Alone”

Semi-Finalist in Musician Magazine’s 1997 Best-Unsigned Band Contest. (Magazine is no longer in publication.)
- Sean Rowe

"Rowe tours UK with MUDFUNK"

Sean Rowe and Marco Haber from the duo MUDFUNK have been officially notified by CMEAS (Contemporary Music Events and Artist Services -- an international booking, promotion and management organization) that they have been selected to participate in a fully sponsored tour of the UK this October. CMEAS panelists put over one thousand bands through a rigorous screening process in order to choose three for this event; MUDFUNK being one of them. The tour -- which will begin early October and run for approximately two and a half weeks -- includes shows in some of the top music clubs and pubs in England, Wales and Scotland. In addition to club concerts, MUDFUNK will also be performing and talking with students at high school workshops supported by the British Arts' Council. - Marco Haber

"ROWE tours UK with NOAH AND THE WHALE FALL 2009" - Sean Rowe


I recently took a trip to his website and stared down his scruffy face and tattooed arm. All right, Mr. Rowe, let’s hear what you’ve got. I chose a random track – “Night” – and pressed play. I leaned back and closed my eyes to the soft, calm strumming lullaby. Nice, I thought - and then he started singing.

Ladies and gentleman, toss away any preconceived notions you may have of this man and his music, and prepare to experience a sound so smooth and sultry, paired with lyrics so deeply soulful, that it must be pure Magic. Sean Rowe is real and intimate. His ability to create a world within each song both quietly and grandly is an absolute gift. Rowe’s entire soul is summoned into his voice, making each note genuine and every word meaningful.

Magic which was released in earlier this month on Collar City Records, opens with pulsing beats and the humming drone of anticipation in “Surprise”. Rowe’s deep, deep voice thoughtfully recalls an old love, “You were nothing but the fragrance of an old dream / that was just time playing tricks on my mind,” and the gentle plucks between verses are in no rush to meet the memories rushing in. I am immediately impressed by the ease and beauty of Rowe’s songwriting ability, and the expansive range of his vocals.

As my ears are greeted by the sounds of a plucking guitar and worrisome strings, I am impressed yet again by another magical ability of Rowe’s: to create a vivid scene using the instrumentation and his vocals so harmoniously. The nervous ticking of a clock, and the tortured moans and sighs of “Time to Think” paint a striking portrait of deception. The dark mood continues into “Night” – a soft-picking and somber lullaby. Rowe’s pleads are heartbreakingly intimate, and I found myself completely enthralled by “Come on daddy, there’s a light up there / We can make it if we hurry / I put my hand on his frozen hand / My mind was numb / My heart was fury.”

Next up: “Jonathan,” the thunderous, out-of-control account of a deadly accident. The song rushes more than his other tracks, echoing the intensity of the lyrics. Here Rowe explores more of his upper range, which when combined with the driving force of the instruments, is both thunderous and out of control. The result is nearly painful to listen to – though whether because of the music or because of the horrifying story behind it is hard to tell.

And almost as if he anticipated the advice to remain in his low range, Rowe delves into his deepest depths yet in “Old Black Dodge.” He may have gone too far for my taste. Rowe’s growl is borderline creepy. The imagery of the lyrics makes the song feel like a hot, dusty road, and all in all, I just feel uncomfortable. The strange falsetto at the end of the track is a bit lovely, but still mostly creepy, and I feel utter relief when I reach the next few tracks.

“Wet” and the “The Walker” will make you take Sean Rowe seriously. The narrative-style lyrics, the simple and real stories they tell, the honesty behind his voice, and the thoughtful, quiet beauty epitomize what Sean Rowe’s magic is all about. “Wet” rises and falls with the confidence and abashedness of a man trying to find just the right words. The song rises to a climatic proclamation of unconditional love, and then relaxes back into the wait for a response. Meanwhile, “The Walker” is a humbling withdrawal from the world he sees as he walks. “While everybody’s thinkin’ themselves to death / I just use my hands” is a convincing reminder that Sean Rowe is so unlike any other.

“American” is the zenith of the album by a mile. The switch to piano and strings synergizes with the captivating and critical lyrics such as “I was naked and for once I was not ashamed / I looked God in the eye and He spit in my face / And He left me on Main Street and drove His hummer away” and “All the Earth drops her jaw as we float into space / We’re moving to Mars by two oh thirty-eight / You know there’s oil there / It’s only a matter of time...” On this track, the undeniable crooning soul, and the thought it all provokes moves me beyond any expectation at the album’s start.

Track nine, “Wrong Side of the Bed,” takes a groovier route in an up-tempo sort of blues. And finally, the album comes to an end with “The Long Haul” – a slightly ethereal tune that sounds just as fresh as the spring Rowe sings about. The quiet humming tells me he has nothing to hide, and I can’t help but believe when he sings “And I know what it means to be alive.”

I can honestly say Magic has left me feeling satisfied beyond expectations. As I’ve listened again and again since my first visit to his website, Sean Rowe has grown on me, and this album is sure to become a favorite. So, give him a try. Sean Rowe may very well prove to be worth your time. - - Erika Dick

"VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS: The Not-so-Starving Artist (4.23.09)"

It’s a chilly day in early April, and Sean Rowe is crouching in a wetland next to Hudson Valley Community College. He’s busy sifting through a pile of rocks, tapping them together and listening to the sound they create.

“If you don’t have a knife or tools,” he says, “you do what people tens of thousands of years ago did: Break the rock in a way to get some simple blades out of it.”

Satisfied with the glassy ring one rock produces, the singer-songwriter-survivalist eyes a choice corner and slams it with a round hammer stone. After a couple tries, a sharp flake splinters to the ground and he picks it up, grinning.

“If we had to make a fireboard [from a cottonwood tree he spotted earlier], we’d use this like a knife. It’s not super sharp, but it’s efficient. We’ll take it with us.”

As a performer, Rowe is the portrait of a self-made man. Like the mythical American troubadour, an acoustic guitar and a world-weary voice are the foundations upon which his earnest musings and stark, slice-of-life stories unfold. In his songs, characters grapple with situations just outside the realm of their personal influence and use humble integrity as a means toward its own end. They’re the stories of brothers, sons and lovers, and whether or not they have any basis in Rowe’s personal life, an autobiographical quality makes them feel true. Offstage, the Troy native lives his code to a degree that most modern city-dwellers might view as a hair left of eccentric. When he’s not playing music, Rowe can be found roving the woods and wetlands of the Capital Region, foraging for nutritious treasures that have largely become lost to the blunt advance of civilization.

“People living a hundred years ago would have had much more of this knowledge,” he says, walking through a small patch of woods that separates a row of houses from a parking lot. “On this very land, people had an intimate knowledge of their landscape. They knew what to gather at what times of year because they were a part of the landscape.” Soda bottles and McDonalds bags litter the ground, and the spring is still new enough that only a few plants have yet emerged from the soil, but as Rowe walks, he describes the landscape as if he’s reading from a menu. Dandelion, colt’s foot, chives, spice bush, Japanese knotweed, hickory nuts. Even cattails and pine needles can, and in Rowe’s opinion should, be consumed, if one wants to truly understand the environment in which they live.

“I think it’s true,” he says, “that if you never use something, it doesn’t have much value to you. Because we don’t have a relationship with most of this stuff, it doesn’t mean anything to us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get some of it back. I like to come to the woods and pretend that I need to figure out what I’m going to utilize to survive.”

Photo: Josh Potter

He can pretend all he wants, but Rowe’s experience is far from restricted to the realm of make-believe. In 2006 he enrolled at Hawk Circle, a wilderness school in Cherry Hill, where he studied with some of the top names in primitive survival. He learned to build living structures and containers to carry his water. He wove baskets and fashioned snares from natural cordage. He memorized plant usage and mastered the art of building a fire. While it wasn’t required in his coursework, Rowe decided by the end of the program to apply the skills he had honed on a solo survival trip. While many of his classmates resigned themselves to fashioning custom bows, Rowe set out for 24 days in the 200 acres of wilderness surrounding the school.

“I really wanted to test myself,” he says. “I had every kind of weather you could have for September. Dry, 75-degree afternoons, and mornings with frost that I really had to worry about for hypothermia. I had one solid week of rain, so it was important that I had my structure up on day one. Because I was alone, I was doing everything. I didn’t even have much time for contemplation.”

In Rowe’s view, there are two ways that modern people approach such an experience. Shows like Survivorman and Man vs. Wild tend to perpetuate the idea that wilderness is intrinsically inhospitable and that survival is a matter of escaping the jaws of nature. To Rowe, though, survivalism is more about participating in the process of nature and learning to live according to its rhythms. He foraged for much of his food, but realized at a certain point that he’d need more calories to sustain himself. He took to trapping mice and chipmunks.

“There’s such an argument around this,” he says, “but depending on what environment you’re in, the landscape is going to dictate what you’re going to eat. I don’t think we need to be eating as much commercial meat as we are right now, but if you’re an Eskimo, you’re just not going to be a vegan. So, I wouldn’t normally trap animals, but I was surviving and—without sounding hokey—killing chipmunks became part of a sacred process.”

As the days went by, he slipped into a sort of mental tempo mutually exclusive from the civilized agenda. “You totally lose track of time,” he says. “I’d go out and simply do what I had to do. You’re listening and your mind is totally clear.”

One of his trip’s greatest lessons may have been that some benefits of wilderness are accessible to the modern lifestyle. When Rowe talks about collecting wild strawberries and chanterelle mushrooms, or making muffins from wild acorn flour, he continually stresses how important this knowledge could be for the average person looking to gain some independence with their food source. This spring, Rowe is teaching a class at HVCC on survivalism, and will offer an evening class this summer on wild edible plants.

“This is how I balance my life out,” he says. “If it were all music or all wilderness, I’d be missing out on something.”

This is not to say the two pursuits don’t complement each other. “[Wilderness survival] certainly helps my songwriting, not in the sense that I’m writing out there, but it keeps my mind clear.” Before he left for Hawk Circle, Rowe made arrangements to record his long-awaited follow-up album to 2003’s 27 with Troy Pohl of the Kamikaze Hearts. He came back that fall with a bunch of material, and over the course of a year and a half, the duo recorded Magic. Tomorrow (Friday, April 24), Rowe will play an official CD release party at Bread and Jam (and you can catch a sneak peak tonight, as he’ll be opening for the Doobie Brothers at the Palace).

Whereas 27 was an acoustic vehicle for Rowe’s songwriting, Magic is a more fleshed-out musical vision. While each song is ultimately about Rowe’s lush baritone, a host of area musicians (including Matthew Loiacono, Adrian Cohen, Danny Welchel, and Cara-May Gorman) fill out each track and, as Rowe says, help “bring out the lyric.”

“People say, ‘I’m surprised you don’t write more songs about trees and stuff,’” Rowe says, “but I think it’s really hard to write about nature unless you’re John Muir or someone. I don’t need someone to sing me what the mountains look like. I’d rather just go there.”

Rowe’s relationship with nature does spring up from time to time, such as on the opening track “Surprise,” where he sings, “My city shakes its head at my wilderness,” or on the politically charged “American”: “All the kids have grown up on driveways and lawns/And the hunters keep secrets on factory farms.” But for the most part, the spatial qualities of nature are evoked in the album’s production rather than lyrically articulated. Lines like “The snow was heavy and the sky was deep” on Night are properly illustrated by the accompanying instrumentation.

“On this record, we tried to create a lot of open space, and nature is just like that,” he says. “You come out here and you’re small.” Rowe credits Pohl for generating much of this space in his production. Rowe’s acoustic guitar is often supported by Pohl’s echoing electric, and thick reverb often coats Rowe’s vocals. Cello and string bass cushion the songwriting even further, but Rowe says he was careful not to go too far. “We didn’t want it to be a busy record with all these solos going on. Putting all of that stuff in there, yet creating this space was the challenge. I wanted it to sound like you could kind of climb into the songs and hang out.”

Rowe says Magic took much longer than he expected, but is everything he hoped the album would be. The process of working in the studio reshaped many songs in unforeseen ways, but if there’s one major way that Rowe’s survivalism has influenced his songwriting, it’s that it’s made him receptive to a song’s fickle vagaries. To explain his studio process, he talks about collecting mushrooms.

“When I go to collect chanterelles, all I’m thinking about are chanterelles. But then I get out to the spot where I know they are and I’ve missed all this other stuff that was along the way. The same’s true for songwriting. You have to pay attention, because there may have been a good song right there.”

And when an idea comes from an unforeseen place, there’s a rule that applies equally to wild edible plants as it does to music: “It’s that willingness to say, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Sean Rowe opens for the Doobie Brothers at 7:30 PM tonight (Thursday) at the Palace Theater (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). Tickets are available by calling 465-3334. Tomorrow (Friday), Rowe celebrates the release of Magic at Bread and Jam Café (130 Remsen St., Cohoes). Tickets are $7. Call 326-2275 for more info. - Metroland Magazine - Josh Potter


Once you know how it’s done, the magic in a magic trick disappears. Sean Rowe’s new album is called “Magic” and to analyze it threatens to destroy what is magic about it. To try and explain it to someone who hasn’t heard it is like taking the petals off a rose to see what’s in the middle. What you have left is a stem with a pistol on the end of it.

Rowe opens for The Doobie Brothers at the Palace tonight and holds a CD release party Friday night at Bread and Jam in Cohoes.

At these shows he will validate the title of his second album ... he will perform magic for his audience.

“There’s some kind of process,” he says, “something that happens that if you commit yourself to the song and let go and let it take you over, that the stuff comes out.

“It’s sort of like this trust element that has to be there, and tapping into that pool allows me to have this freedom. It’s almost like it’s not my responsibility anymore. It’s letting the song come through and the emotion come through. Really cool stuff happens out of performing live. It’s happened to me countless times where after the show I don’t even know what I did, but it was really cool, and I really felt I was this vessel, and something was coming through me.”

Horror stories are fairy tales for adults unafraid to prime the pump of primal fears, the kind that children love to hate and look to mama to make things alright.

Sean calls his horror stories love stories, but he admits there is no line between beauty and horror in his world, and his love stories haunt him in a way that screams out for elusive unconditional love.

“Every song to me is about getting down to the truth. It’s about connecting in a way I think that’s love because its understanding. A song like “Jonathan” (on the new CD) is really dark stuff, but it’s also trying to connect, trying to understand. And I just think that’s really important, especially when I write. I’m not just writing in a therapeutic way for myself. I’m really trying to grab somebody and open up and say, ‘Look at this!’”

“Jonathan” is about an auto accident seen through the eyes of a drunk driver and his victim, both of whom are dead. There is no way I would have known this unless Sean had told me, and I’m not sure that my revelation here doesn’t burst the soap bubble floating through the ether of the CD. Sean says this about it: “A lot of my songs have nothing to do with me personally, and that’s just the way I write. It’s hard for me to write in the first person because it’s like when I’m going through something, I really don’t want to write about it. I’m just stuck in the feeling of it. So, once I get perspective on it, it’s easier for me to write about it.”

Sean is completely unbounded by convention, trends or timeliness in terms of melody, guitar phrasings, rhyme….or reason. His voice is as rich, dark and deep as his lyrics and his melodies soar, reminding me of listening to Roxy Music’s “Avelon” as I climbed into the Malibu hills through a hazy firestorm with my son.

This is an absolutely fantastic album that deserves extra points for defying all conventions. It was produced by a Troy native who spends weeks alone in the wilderness. He quotes Tom Waits who says that just because something is true doesn’t make it interesting. He throws out the first person rule, grooves on raw emotions that fire his muse, and pushes beyond his own experiences to draw on resources beyond his understanding.

Sean Rowe recently performed at the influential South By Southwest conference, opened for Joan Osborne last year and did a recent tour of English pubs. Magic comes six years after his debut album 27, and it was worth the wait. “I was sort of preoccupied,” he says. “I was living at a wilderness school. So, I was doing a lot of things. I spent a lot of time living alone. I did this solo wilderness survival trek for 24 days, and I was really focused on that aspect of my life which is a big part of it between that stuff and the songwriting, that sort of weird paradox, but I was really focused on that stuff. I’ve always done (the recording) for myself in the past. So, I guess that’s why it took a long time. - Don Wilcock - Special to the Record

"MAGIC SHOW...(4.23.09)"

Singer-songwriter Sean Rowe has the most distinctive, soulful voice on the Capital Region music scene. It's a rough-hewn, whiskey-soaked rasp of a voice ? all sandpaper, honey and smoke. The kind of voice that stops you in your tracks.

Rowe put that mesmerizing voice of his to good use on his 2004 debut album, "27," but the songs were sometimes overpowered by that voice. That doesn't happen on his long-overdue follow-up, "Magic," released this week by the fine folks at Collar City Records. With his new album, Rowe has finally conjured up a batch of 10 songs that are powerful enough to stand up to his voice. A giant leap forward, "Magic" should thrust Rowe into the national spotlight.

Co-produced by Rowe and the Kamikaze Hearts' Troy Pohl, the album was recorded at Collar City Sound in Troy, and the results are simply dazzling, setting Rowe's soul-baring songs in a wash of lush, intimate atmospherics thanks to contributions from such Capital Region A-listers as cellist Monica Wilson Roach, pianist Adrian Cohen and drummers Danny Whelchel and Matthew Loiacono.

Rowe celebrates his aptly titled new album with a release party at the Bread and Jam Cafe in Cohoes at 8 p.m. Friday. And if that's not enough, Rowe will also open the show for the Doobie Brothers at the Palace Theatre in Albany at 7:30 tonight. Come hear the "Magic." - The Times Union - Greg Haymes


When you hear Sean Rowe start up, you can’t help but picture a gothic version of the South, or what I envision what the South would be like. As I don’t really know much of the real South and I am sure many residents of this mythical “South” would guffaw at this Canadian, I still have my hopes. My hopes are that there is always a haze of gritty and sweltering heat, an open field next to a rushing creek and chairs made from long dead trees. This is the South that Sean Rowe makes me think of, one of many long told stories and old community churches on the outskirts of small towns. While his music takes you to such places, it is his voice that brings it all to life, take a listen to see for yourself. Think of a more folk revival singing Bill Callahan…so you know its going to be good. - Slowcoustic -


'Magic' April 2009
'naked songs' released July 2008
'27' released in Nov 2004
'The End of Oct' released in Sept 2001



Resonant, robust and resolute: the voice of Sean Rowe is deep, distinct and endearing.

“As thick and sweet as molasses, Sean Rowe’s baritone is one of those rare singing voices that will leave you forever changed. Like Al Green, Van Morrison, or Gil Scott-Heron at their best…” -Metroland Magazine

“Listening to Sean Rowe’s Album, Magic, it is hard to decide what is more magical-the dream inducing songs or Sean’s powerful, emotional voice. The big, deep and rich sound pulls on your heart almost to the point of breaking.”-Chris Wienk, Program Director at WEXT-FM

“…to analyze it [Magic] threatens to destroy what its magic about it. To try and explain it to someone who hasn’t heard it is like taking the petals off a rose to see what’s in the middle. What you have left is a stem with a pistol on the end of it… This is an absolutely fantastic album that deserves extra points for defying all conventions. –Don Wilcock, The Troy Record