If you see him, say hello.
Because if you’ve listened to Sean Devine’s album, “Austin Blues,” you know him. You know him through the sincerity of his voice, the honesty of his lyrics, the openness of his melodies. “Austin Blues” is a naked, unabashed look into Devine’s unfettered soul. Devine proudly proclaims in the title track he’s “feeling pretty free,” and it’s evident throughout the album. But like Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” this is an album about heartache, an album about divorce and loss. However, it’s mainly about hope, as Devine is “putting himself back together.” “going home,” “gettin’ even (closer to the way he was before, gettin’ even wiser about the things he must ignore),” and “getting along.” All these tracks embody the blood, sweat and tears of Sean’s last few years. They provide an insight into the life of a dedicated, passionate artist living in a society that struggles to support such men. It can be hard to feel the love, it can be hard to make a go of it as a songwriter, but Devine is doing it, and he’s doing it the way Texas singer/songwriter and Americana icon Steve Earle told us artists to do: fearlessly and uncompromisingly.
Devine isn’t alone on this album. He gets a lot of help from fine Austin talent. Austin natives Rob Ramos and Travis Woodward are flawless on bass and drums, Phil Hurley enhances each song he plays on with tasty, melodic lead guitar and Bill Payne adds touching, tender piano. Others also contribute to the wholesome, haunting sounds of Devine’s first LP in more than 10 years.
“Austin Blues” is more than just a great album; it’s a remarkable achievement. It’s Sean Devine saying, “this is who I am, and I’m going to live my dream no matter how hard the road is.” And why not do it in Austin, “carried by the hands of fate, drinking whiskey in the morning, doing all those things you hate?” Like Guy Clark, one of Austin’s finest, or the legendary Townes Van Zandt, Devine bleeds his heart out in his songs. You believe him.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to “I’ll Leave Anything Behind But You” or “Change Me.” “You can change your own picture/of the person you want to be/Change the face in the mirror/But you can’t change me.”
No, you can’t change Sean Devine, but when you listen to “Austin Blues,” you can understand him, and you can damn sure appreciate him.