Album review: Shiner by Sean McMahon and The MoonMen

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Melburnian Sean McMahon has some form in the alt country department, as a member of bands Downhills Home and Western Union, which would explain why his new album with his new band, Shiner, doesn’t sound like a debutante effort. It’s not an alt country album, though – not entirely. But that’s to be forgiven when McMahon and The MoonMen blend alt country with a bit of psychedelic rock and blues. 

The most country of the tracks are ‘Here Comes the Night Again’ and ‘Further Still to Run’, with their echoes of Whiskeytown. The rest of the album could probably be classified as country by stealth: an album that people who say ‘I hate country music’ would listen to (I used to be one of those people, so that is not a judgement!). After a few go-rounds they realise that they’ve grown fond of pedal steel, and before they know it they’re in the fold. In other words: artists like Sean McMahon can often act as proselytisers for country music at large, not just because the music hooks the listener but because McMahon is true to the genre by singing stories and paying his listeners the compliment of giving them properly developed songs and lyrics.
McMahon’s notes on the songs suggest that several of them arose from a tough time in his life, and while sadness is there the album isn’t melancholy overall, mainly because he’s chosen to marry those darker lyrics with music that carries the listener along. There is the train-track beat of so many country songs, plus the thumping beat of rock.Overall, there are several different elements on this album for new listeners to enjoy and, no doubt, for his existing fans to relish.
Shiner is out now through MGM Distribution.

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