Halfway From Nashville
“All the songs that I write are about schmucks and losers, I guess autobiography is my chosen form,” Sean Harrison sings in the opening title track of this charmingly quirky collection that lyrically mines the golden, literary territory of Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Tom T. Hall and Guy Clark, while musically moving with ease from classic country, accompanied by weepy steel guitar, to skillful splashes of rock, folk and Americana.
Highlights include that self-effacing title cut, as well as the fatalistic “Wake Up Dead,” with the hapless schnooks inclever tunes such as “Big Decisions” and “Paydays” reveling in comical wordplay. There’s a sweet, goofy romanticism in folky-pop tunes like “Fingertips” and “Psychedelic.” Harrison also waxes philosophically on the challenge and allure of Arkansas water towers that were “made to climb,” replete with a narration relaying the fanciful tale of landing a gyro-copter on an old salvage barge in Arkansas’s Beaver Lake. And in the album’s penultimate track, he takes powerful aim at those unable to apologize for their hurtful actions in the politically charged and electric-guitar-fueled “Worried.”
Born in Nashville but raised mostly in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Harrison’s worldly, literate bent is a result of his upbringing, as his father, William Harrison, taught creative writing at the University of Arkansas. The elder Harrison was also renowned for the short story, “Roller Ball Murder,” which he turned into the screenplay for the 1975 film, Rollerball. Having taken his music around the world, busking on the streets of London, Paris, Venice and the like, there’s more than a touch of worldly-wise troubadour in this fine collection, and, as the title suggests, there may not be a clearly defined dot on the map denoting Harrison’s place in the musical landscape. Yet, as it’s often said, it’s not necessarily the destination, but the journey itself that proves most satisfying.