Sean Patrick McGraw just may be one of country music’s best-kept secrets, but don’t expect that to last for too long after the release of his second EP, My So Called Life, which came out in late April.
For the constant road-warrior (McGraw and his band keep pace with 150+ shows annually), the release of My So Called Life comes just as several key accomplishments are stacking up. Clear Channel named him a 2011 “NEW: Artist To Watch.” He recently finished a stretch opening for Dierks Bentley on the Jagermeister Country Music Tour. Two of his songs were used during the 2010 season of the hit HBO-series “True Blood,” and “Git Yer Cowboy On,” the hard-charging party track that opens My So Called Life, was used to kickoff Westwood One’s presentation of the 2011 Super Bowl. Yes, it seems this may start becoming McGraw’s “so called life.”
McGraw, no relation to Tim, co-wrote all nine songs on the EP in addition to getting behind the control deck as producer. The result is a compact set of heavy country standouts sounding somewhere between Jake Owen and Dwight Yoakam. The overall sound is full, with a rhythm section adding depth as slide guitar weaves through strong arrangements. And though the majority of the EP rocks hard with the brawn of a band reveling in drop-D tuning and distorted electric guitars, McGraw retains his humble upbringing from a steel town an hour outside Buffalo, NY throughout the collection.
“There’s a sign up ahead, flashing in red, from Nashville appearing tonight/ It’s always the same, they misspell my name, still I love the honky tonk life,” McGraw sings on the road song “Honky Tonk Life.” His vocal delivery is natural and laid-back while commanding the listener’s attention and always making sure to invite everyone to the party. On the swampy “Southern In Yer Soul,” McGraw calls out to country fans everywhere as he sings “Out there in California, they got surfers, suits and punks/ And they’re all gonna raise their glass when they hear Johnny Cash.”
McGraw does eventually slow it down for the final two songs on the EP, “What I’d Do” and “Too Far Gone,” the latter being a Western-tinged ballad of loss. McGraw’s voice shines here as he navigates the chorus’ pretty melody while singing, “And still I’m dreamin’ about you/ I’m still holdin’ on/ But what could I do?/ Too far gone…”
My So Called Life is an all-too-brief collection that clocks in at just under 31 minutes. However, it does showcase McGraw’s hard-country style as both an artist and songwriter. Given the new exposure mounting up, if this is McGraw’s “so called life” and you have yet to be introduced, then prepare to become better acquainted.