NEPA Scene Staff

Canadian ‘Shantyman’ Sean McCann begins U.S. voyage in Wilkes-Barre at Karl Hall on July 3

Canadian ‘Shantyman’ Sean McCann begins U.S. voyage in Wilkes-Barre at Karl Hall on July 3
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From a press release:

Séan McCann, a founder of iconic Canadian folk rock band Great Big Sea and an Order of Canada recipient for his advocacy of people living with mental health and addiction issues, has spent the last 10 years touring North America as a solo concert performer and musical keynote speaker, singing and sharing his story with theater audiences, frontline workers, teachers, students, patients, inmates, veterans, and anyone who has struggled with their mental well-being.

He believes that music is medicine and a song is never more powerful than when it is sung with a friend. His new album “Shantyman” is a rollicking return to his own maritime roots and an invigorating breath of salty sea air to help shake off the negative effects of social isolation.

He will bring these tunes and more to Karl Hall when his summer tour, The Shantyman Sings for America, sets sail from downtown Wilkes-Barre on Sunday, July 3.

Special guest Bret Alexander, the Pittston-based principal songwriter and guitarist of nationally acclaimed rock band The Badlees, will open the all-ages show.

Doors at Karl Hall (57 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre) open at 6:30 p.m., and the music starts at 7 p.m. Tickets, which are $25, are available online via Eventbrite and at the door.

A lot has happened in the almost 10 years since Séan McCann exited the arena-filling band Great Big Sea he co-founded in 1993. He has released five successful solo albums touching on a range of subjects, from Canadian life and culture to spotlighting national hardships like the infamous 2016 wildfires that devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, in which he partnered with the Canadian Red Cross. A philanthropist as much as he is an artist, he also organized a songwriters’ benefit in 2017 in support of veterans suffering with PTSD and addiction. In recognition of these efforts and his other advocacy work for people living with mental health and addiction issues, he earned the Order of Canada in 2020.

McCann’s own battle with overcoming alcohol addiction, coming clean and owning his truth has been key to his growth as a husband, father, musician, and human. Armed with the strength and support of his wife, Andrea Aragon, he co-penned his first book, “One Good Reason,” published in 2020. It’s the story of how love saved his marriage and music saved his life. It’s about a man freed from the weight of a lie, a man who is changing his narrative and never forgetting that he is not alone.

The 55-year-old vocalist has shared his powerful and inspiring personal story and songs with audiences all across North America over the past decade as a solo performer and musical keynote speaker. As the concert trail is opening up again as pandemic restrictions loosen, he continues to do what loves best – write and perform songs and share stories accompanied by his best friend “Old Brown,” the first guitar he purchased back in 1989.

These days, the only “wave” most people care to hear about is the kind that lands on a sandy shore or carries a boat safely to its destination. McCann’s sixth solo album, “Shantyman,” proves that a 200-year-old traditional sea shanty and a modern new wave pop song can really be just a whistle apart stylistically. Infectious (in a good way) sing-alongs from an album brimming with them, “Shantyman” honors both the recent and ancient musical past by blending two of his favorite genres in foot-stompers guaranteed to lift spirits after the many months everyone spent largely in lonely isolation.

“A song is never more powerful than when it is sung with a friend,” and in McCann’s musical world, the old and the new have always thrived together, side by side in the same tasty stew. The rhythms of Celtic bodhráns and tin whistles existed in harmony with synths and drum machines in his curious musical mind.

“Growing up in the 1980s in outport Newfoundland, I was influenced as much by traditional sea shanties as I was by the new wave videos I watched on that upstart new Much Music TV station,” McCann recalled.

“My mix tapes comfortably included The Chieftains and Men at Work on side A and The Police and The Pogues on side B.”

With his wide range of influences at play, “Shantyman” is a great example of a comfortable dichotomy of both style and story. Though many of the old sailor songs are about loneliness and longing, he conveys them in such a rousing, joyful manner that listeners want to catch the same friendly wave and sail along with him towards brighter shores. The album, available exclusively on his website, is the sound of freedom and release belted out by a voice strengthened by the weathering of many personal storms.

“Music is strong medicine” is the mantra by which McCann measures his own successful recovery (now 10 years sober). “It has the power to heal the hurt and unite the divided, and we all need that now more than ever.”