Cool Chicago sounds: Cold Country

Sean McConnell is both prolific and brilliant

August 22, 2013

“As I know that you are always on the lookout for good, undiscovered psych/psych-inspired music, check out Cold Country’s new EP Missing the Muse,” local publicist August Forte recently emailed. Indeed I am and indeed I did, and the formerly one-man band also known as Phoenix-to-Chicago transplant Sean McConnell quickly made me a fan.

Recording under the name Cold Country—inspired by a comment his father made when informed that he was moving to Chicago from his native Arizona, according to an interview with Windy City Rock—McConnell released two full albums, Libra and To Providence, and the five-song Missing the Muse EP in, respectively, April, May, and June earlier this year. Unlike a lot of prolific home-recording auteurs, both the songs and the sounds are consistently strong, though Missing the Muse is the most impressive of these offerings, all of which are streaming for free or available for download at BandCamp.

The most recent disc benefits from an expansive ork-pop sound and the fact that it’s McConnell’s first recording with a full group, turning the intimate, late-night, Nick Drake folk-rock of his one-man-band releases into something much more lush and grand. Especially valuable is the addition of keyboardist Anna Holmquist, who does a gorgeous lead vocal turn on “Carried Away with the Wind” and adds fetching harmonies on other winners such as “Her Light” and the title track.

“What did I find?/Something divine/Something that’s yours/Nothing was mine,” McConnell sings on the latter. “But have I got nothing left to lose/Now that I am missing the muse?”

I don’t know if the singer and songwriter is pondering romantic loss in those lines. But as far as creativity goes, a muse is the last thing he needs to worry about.

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