Sometimes, amid all the highly promoted, big label releases from established country artists, a gem of an album which is the total antithesis of all those things is brought to my attention. And that’s exactly what happened a few months ago with the release of the self-produced debut album “ Call It Even “ from US singer/songwriter Scott Sean White ( stream/download here https://ffm.to/sswcalliteven ) . The eleven tracks ( three solos writes, the remainder collaborations) reveal Scott to be a very deep thinker and their reflective lyrics are a standout feature throughout. He wrestles with the complexities of human nature which of course isn’t always pretty but that’s not to say the album is without its lighter, humorous moments in the least! The arrangements are beautiful and varied, and totally sympathetic to the lyrics which he has wisely ensured are always kept centre stage and given room to breath. Scott sings as he writes, deep from his very soul, and throughout the album his lead vocals are complimented beautifully by some gorgeous harmonies provided by a host of both male and female vocalists including fellow Texans Jon Randall and Bonnie Bishop.
I was drawn in from the very start by the hauntingly sparse piano chords which introduce the opening/title track ( and which continue throughout the song, augmented with equally atmospheric pedal steel ) and felt an air of tension and intrigue . And that was even before the impactful first few lines hit me. It was like reading the start of a novel that you know is going to be a page turner
But it’s an album which may never have seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for the global pandemic, as only when the world was put on hold did Scott find time to record these songs which had been bubbling up inside him for so long. The seasoned musician and studio engineer had been busy making a living and providing for his family for several decades by playing in a corporate 10-piece disco/funk band which he also managed while slotting in regular trips from his home in Poetry, Texas ( yep, that really is a place! ) to Nashville in recent years to both co-write and showcase his own music.
Fellow Think Country staff writer Patti McClintic who lives in music city told me she was immediately won over after seeing him perform at one of The Local’s “Music Row Freakshow” evenings and I noticed the names of several of his “ Freak Show Friends” on the album’s writing credits including Terri Jo Box and Dan Smalley. Reactions to his originals at such evenings, as well as the success of releases from the likes of Lori McKenna, Travis Meadows and Tony Lane helped convince Scott that his non-commercial music, songs devoid of singalong choruses and toe tapping beats and which were often longer than the 3-minute constraints that country radio seems to demand, stood a chance of being well received, so when he finally had an enforced break from his hectic schedule he turned his attention to what was to become this album. And when you understand the painstaking approach Scott took when recording finally got underway, you’ll realise why time was a particularly essential commodity….it really was a labour of love, something that shines through as far as I am concerned and every time I listen I hear something new either lyrically or sonically.
Every track was tackled completely individually, with Scott recording the bare bones of each song which he sent to out to the other musicians together with an explanation of the vibe he was after in order for them to record their parts. Even then, apparently he wasn’t always entirely happy and started again from scratch before finally re-recording his vocals and instrumentals only when he had exactly what he was after. Scott’s family are obviously very dear to him, he credits them in the liner notes and they provide rich inspiration for many of the album’s tracks. “ Crazy But True “ is a stunner of a love song to his wife Brenda, their relationship enduring against the odds, in which he uses some fantastic analogies of other seemingly unfathomable scenarios to describe how lucky he feels to have her as a constant in his life and wake up next to her every day. “ The Broken Part” was written after the tragic passing of Scott’s brother Joey, his grieving tangible in both the lyrics and vocal delivery with the aching lap steel magnifying his heartbreak.And having already introduced us to his parents on the aforementioned opening track, they take centre stage again in “ Dad’s Garage and Mama’s Kitchen”. Looking back at what seemed at the time to be their very individual, polarised roles, he now realises they had a lot in common with each contributing to the smooth running of the family unit in their own way.
Or as he puts it so beautifully, “ between carburetors and casseroles, broken hearts and fishing poles, there was always something needed fixing” . One of the two tracks released as singles so far, it hardly needs the fabulous accompanying video as it is so descriptive in its own right!
Alongside his family, and of course often inextricably linked, human nature in all its forms and with all its idiosyncrasies also seems to both inspire and fascinate Scott as I touched on earlier. It is woven in some way into all the album tracks, but possibly none more so than “ Humankind” in which we get a timely reminder that simple acts of kindness can impact so dramatically on others’ lives. “ It don’t take much to help someone, to save someone” is something we all need to remember in a world where so many of us are increasingly self-centred it appears to me. Sean and collaborator Helene Cronin write so sensitively about the care worker who goes way beyond her remit and the school kid welcoming the newcomer who has too often felt an outsider.
No wonder he chose to release this as a single, and what a beautifully moving video too, dedicated to his late brother who Scott describes as being absolutely the best person when it came to being kind.
Ahead of his family on the liner notes, Scott gives thanks to Jesus and his strong Christian faith and beliefs are another integral part of his writing, subtly filtering through on frequent occasions but being particularly evident on the final two tracks. “ God’s Not Me” is a really hard hitter and like “ Humankind” really made me stop and take an inward look at how I treat other people. It has the simplest of accompaniments, with intricate finger picking by guitarist Justin Ostrander ( who plays on every track and among the many musicians involved on the album gets a special message of thanks from Scott for being “ the defining musical force on song after song” ) and beautiful cello playing by Brian Allen. The song sees Scott compare God’s capacity for forgiveness to his own, relating the step-by step journey of one man’s descent into alcoholism and is effects on both himself and those he holds dear…..a man Scott explains he would have given up on long ago unlike God who heeds his eventual remorse and pleas for help . It finishes with Scott taking comfort in the fact that when he is himself standing at the pearly gates on judgement day, his transgressions will also be forgiven. This links the song perfectly to the well-placed album closer, “ When I Go”, in which Scott evaluates what is really important to him and what he can leave behind, and I think we can all learn a lot from he choices he makes. Just to cite a few examples, he picks the house over the home, the love over the fame and my favourite “ I’ll leave the times I fell flat on my face and take the guts it took to try in the first place”. Well, Scott Sean White definitely hasn’t fallen flat on his face with this album, it’s a debut which has definitely set the bar very high for whatever he has planned for the future….no pressure! And it’s great to see that his writing has captured the attention of Platinum recording artist Cody Johnson….he has two cuts on Cody’s forthcoming album including the current single “ God Bless The Boy ( Cori’s Song)” which he cowrote with Barrett Barber and Terri Jo Box. Such a beautiful write which will no doubt resonate with anyone watching their daughter grow up and thinking ahead to the boy she’ll eventually love …..who of course will “ never be good enough” and needs all the help God can provide!
Listen here https://codyjohnson.lnk.to/godblesstheboy When I next travel to Nashville from here in the UK Scott will be high up on my list of artists to catch performing for sure. I see he has some upcoming US dates on his website ( seanscottwhite.com) where you’ll also find some great album-related merch ( including of course a physical CD), links to his socials and further artist information.