Sean Keel, A Dry Scary Blue

Sean Keel, A Dry Scary Blue

Published: 09/07/2024

Author: Karsten Hein

Category: Audiophile Music

Tag(s): Singer/Songwriter

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In spring 2024, I invited my friend and fellow audiophile, Arndt Scheuren, over to our studio to audition a new HiFi setup. For his own orientation, Arndt brought along a CD from a little known artist and asked me to play it on the Marantz CD17. What happened next was truly amazing: Arndt, who knew the CD recording, was perplexed by the extent of musical detail revealed by the Martin Logan electrostatic speakers, and I, who was familiar with the usual sound of my system, was flummoxed by the haunting proximity of singer-songwriter Sean Keel’s broken voice. This did address my nervous system in a most stirring fashion: Never before had vocals sounded so wise and plaintive, so intimate and breath-taking, so powerful and frail to me — all at the same time.

Taken aback by this unfamiliar transformation and looking for confirmation that what we were experiencing was real, Arndt and I took turns, directing each other to sit in the sweet spot of the stereo triangle where the perfectly aligned running times of the dipole speakers beamed the singer and instruments into the room in life-like fashion. Considering that Arndt and I were by no means new to this field, had listened to a wide range of HiFi setups and bought audiophile albums from various artists, our sudden exhilaration came as a surprise to us. What was it that made this album stand out from all the others we had heard, especially when presented on such a revealing HiFi setup? I just had to find out first hand and decided to contact Sean Keel directly.

The eiaudio blog has a section called “Music & Talk” which is to bridge the existing gap between the artist and the audiophile community by creating awareness for each other. This gap is real, because most musicians derive their joy from performing their songs and playing their instruments well. In their performances, they worry about singing in tune, knowing their instruments, and controlling their voices. Hence, this is also where their focus lies when they listen to a recording of their music. This, however, is quite different from the criteria audiophiles listen for when they evaluate the merits of a recording. I was quite sure that this would be no different in Sean Keel’s case, and that my contacting him would come as a surprise to him.

In preparation for our interview, I conducted some research online and found that Sean Keel was based in Austin, where he worked as Maths professor with Texas university, conducting research and teaching classes. Although “A Dry Scary Blue” was not Keel’s first album, it was the first he produced in collaboration with Gabriel Rhodes, the son of Kimmie Rhodes and the DJ Joe Gracey. Having worked with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and others, Gabriel recognised Sean Keel’s special gift as singer-songwriter and added piano, keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar, and bass to the lyrics to help create an album that sounds truly unique and should not be missing in an audiophile CD collection.

The album’s melodies are soothing, whispering, and ever so often slightly disconcerting. What surprised me most was Sean Keel’s ability to sketch stories in the tradition of the great American poets that made me want to google places and meanings straight away. This was also something that I had not done for a while. “A Dry Scary Blue” had me interested from the very first minute, and I am happy to be sharing the opportunity of having this experience with you. Look for the album on the common streaming channels, or, better yet, support the artist and the record company by purchasing the album on CD.

< Sean Keel on BandCamp | My Interview with Sean >

Song Titles

  1. corn palace — 4:07 min
  2. near that far — 4:29 min
  3. the flower — 3:34 min
  4. hill of three oaks — 04:04 min
  5. backwards — 3:17 min
  6. blessed assurance — 2:53 min
  7. cool old men — 6:42 min
  8. his mouth so red — 4:50 min
  9. two coins — 3:12 min
  10. i hate the west — 4:29 min

Album Details

  • Sean Keel: vocals
  • Gabriel Rhodes: piano, keyboard, guitar, bass 
  • Ben Montano: acoustic guitar, keyboard
  • Nora Predey: vocals, bass, drums
  • Lyrics: Sean Keel, Ben Montano (song no. 8)
  • Produced by: Gabriel Rhodes
  • Total playing time:  41:39
  • Record label: Icons Creating Evil Art (ICEA)
  • Album release date: 2022
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