A recent distribution deal with Florida’s Blues Destiny Records didn’t stop Sean Healen from immediately getting back in the studio. For his forthcoming album, tentatively titled When the Wind, Healen brought on the legendary Malcolm Burn for a new take on production.
Burn, a producer, engineer and musician, has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and John Mellencamp. Recorded in just 12 days at Burn’s home studio in Kingston, NY, Healen’s new songs convey a dark nature hidden subtly beneath pseudo-poppy country ballads. Similar to producer Rick Rubin’s work with Johnny Cash during his final days, these songs have a decidedly lo-fi, home-recorded sound, and mix elements from dancey Harry Nilsson-esque piano pieces to the stripped-down drum stylings of Ringo Starr.
Healen’s singing voice is deeper and more soulful than you’d imagine from talking to him and, when he hits the low notes on the new track “Tow Truck,” it’s downright haunting. Burn adds nuance throughout the album as a pianist, drummer and occasional backup singer. The album (which Healen hopes to release in January) maintains its simplicity; over-production is not a problem here. Though the work has yet to be mastered, it’s already on par with any major release.
Healen hopes that tapping Burn’s talent will usher in a new era in his own career.
“I’m not playing bars anymore,” Healen says. “I’m going for listening audiences and trying to only open for bigger-name acts coming through…I just want to make a living!”
If the new songs are any indication of the way things are going, Healen, with his nonstop writing (he writes a song a day), is coming to a point of clarity and discipline in his career.
Local bassist and College of Santa Fe music graduate James Maldonado is moving to Boston. As a jazz bassist for pop and rock cover outfit Trio Maldonado, and as a session musician with funk band The Reverend Karol King Kong, Maldonado has what most musicians dream of: effortless talent. He also has the ability to seamlessly transition between rock, jazz, punk and soul.
Unfortunately, Maldonado says he can’t make a go of it in Santa Fe and is off to pursue more promising musical opportunities.
“Music is my career,” Maldonado tells SFR, “and there are places I can do this and ways I can rock out, and Santa Fe just isn’t one of them…other towns and cities have room for new music. Santa Fe does not.”
Seeing his reluctant departure fortifies a sad truth about Santa Fe: This town seems to hate what it doesn’t know.
“Whenever you get a small town that is heavy on the arts, it’s a magnet for older retirees…people who don’t want loud or interesting music but, rather, blues and Latin,” Maldonado says. “Clubs also play a role in pushing musicians away. Are professional musicians supposed to tell their kids and families that it’s OK they didn’t get paid because they got a meal at 50 percent off and a couple beers?”
Losing Maldonado should serve as a lesson to all of us to open our ears and bring the same amount of support to all the Santa Fe arts. We cannot afford to keep pushing our musicians to other cities just because we won’t put a premium on live musicianship.
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