It Sure Was Good
Sean Kiely makes music that's quietly disobedient – it never does exactly what you think it's going to do. Note by note, measure by measure, these luminous songs lure you into a deep and mysterious thicket. Credit goes to bassist Bobby McCullough and drummer Dave Heilman, a pair of aces who play with sympathy, grace, and imagination, and Kiely himself, who has turned into one of Jersey's best and most bewitching folk-rock poets.
Kiely's songwriting takes the listener to a place high above the astral plane, a place of comfort and warmth, glimpsed at in dreams but always unable to describe when conscious.
PAT BYRNE WFMU
The modern folk music of America
On his new EP "It Sure Was Good", NJ singer/songwriter Sean Kiely blends the personal and historical, expressing his own feelings of being adrift in life and love through a poetic imagining of the experience of the settlers of the mysterious Lost Colony of Roanoke (a story from history that has always fascinated me!). These lyrical themes blend perfectly with Sean's delicate fingerpicking and melodic touch. The dreamy production, with atmospheric pedal steel, shuffling snare drums and bubbling synths, completes the intimate, conceptual folk package.
While on vacation, near a beach in the mid-Atlantic couple of years back, I woke up in the middle of the night and went on a 3am wikipedia bender, eventually landing on the entry for the lost colony of Roanoke. In case you, like me, somehow missed this bit of US history growing up, the Roanoke Colony was the first go at colonizing North America by Europeans, and it did not go well. They had the misfortune of choosing an infertile island to settle, which also happened to be undergoing historic drought conditions. After that first winter, the hundred or so inhabitants sent their leader, John White, back to England to try and round up supplies and return with reinforcements. It took him a long while – three years – to pull off a return journey. When he got back, there was no trace of anyone, including his daughter and grand-daughter, Virginia Dare, the first European born on the North American continent.
This was the first I had heard of any of this story. The disappearance of 115 humans is of course interesting on its own, but I was so intrigued by the idea that, in a culture obsessed with success and the projection of success, the very first moment of our eventual appropriation of an entire continent was a spectacular failure. Maybe more intriguing, though, was the fantasy of the experience of that small group of people, who had followed an unqualified leader across an ocean to a hostile place, that in the end wound up swallowing them up without a trace.
The four songs that make up It Sure Was Good are an emotional reckoning. They pass through waves of ambivalence about our politics & culture –newly digital spaces where we where we broadcast all our successes, and hide away our failure & loss.