‘Votive’ is American singer-songwriter Paul Seeba’s third album, following on from ‘Mitchell Yards’ which became the soundtrack for a PBS documentary that was awarded a regional Emmy for cultural relevance in 2015, and then 2017’s ‘Republic of Kinney’ which I reviewed for Fatea at the time and remember greatly enjoying the organic, earthy feel to this record.
Paul describes 2022’s ‘Votive’ as his “most explorative and curated effort to date and the songs remain sanguine despite our dark times. Thematically, I tried to craft a contagious sense of hope, blending heartfelt lyrics, melodious hooks and guitar interplay.”
The album was produced at Sparta Sound by Rich Mattson in Eveleth MN, mastered at Audioactive by Tom Garneau near Minneapolis, MN and then keeping it local, all the musicians on the album hail from the small mining community town of Hibbing, MN.
Opening track ‘Astronaut’ fades in on acoustic strum and trippy, psychedelic vocal soundscape from daughter Lila before Paul’s voice enters. If anything it’s sounding even more weathered than on his last release, something between latter day Dylan and Mike Scott of The Waterboys, and his rough hewn vocal somehow brings more vulnerability to this opening declaration, “Under my left breast pocket, despite what you may think, there’s a heart that beats and is as real as the sun is real to me.”
‘Haiku For You’ is just that, a lovely paean for his daughter and friends after the disruption the pandemic caused their last year in high school, ‘Love & Hate’ barges through on bumping bass and sharp drums before ‘Johnny Paycheck’ slows things down as Paul laments what he sees as modern country music’s abandonment of the working man’s hardships, “Now that everyone’s been globalized, everybody’s been all downsized, he paid his dues, but there wasn’t no union, no one to talk to, there off telecommuting, when they said hey we still need ya, just gotta move to Indonesia”.
As with previous release ‘The Republic Of Kinney’, Paul has worked with Producer Rich Mattson at Sparta Sound and several of the same musicians, and once again has achieved a delightfully immediate feel to the recording and at those times where some of the songs almost ‘fade in’ to start, it captures the transition from kitchen table jam into something altogether more lovely.
On another very strong album, personal favourites of mine are the strident, country rock of ‘One Horse Town’, the urgent driving ‘Sealegs’ with the opening couplet so vivid you can almost taste it, “Travelling through the Macaw Nation, inside a reservation where the smoked salmon gets in your eyes”, elegiac waltz time ‘Tiny Ships’ and dreamily reflective album closer ‘Underwater Votive’.
With ‘Votive’ Paul Seeba has continued to take challenging themes and ideas, then wrap them up in an accessibly commercial sound track for modern life that positively demands repeated listens.
Another album, another cracker.