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Sean Costello (April 16, 1979 – April 15, 2008) was an American blues guitarist and singer renowned for his fiery playing and soulful voice.He released five critically-acclaimed albums before his career was cut short by his sudden death at the age of 29. Tinsley Ellis called him ‘the most gifted young Blues guitarist on the scene... he was a triple threat on guitar, vocals and as a songwriter’.
At sixteen, Costello recorded his first album, Call The Cops (1996), already ‘displaying a flawless command of 1950s blues guitar’, in the words of music historian Tony Russell. His lead guitar work on Susan Tedeschi's gold-selling album, Just Won't Burn, (1998), subsequently brought him national exposure. Costello's band later toured as Tedeschi's backing group.
"His playing is shockingly deep for a 20-year old", wrote the
Allmusic guide of Costello's second album, Cuttin’ In (2000), which was
nominated for a W. C. Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut. The
follow-up, Moanin’ For Molasses, was equally well received; the Allmusic
guide drew attention to Costello's "soulful voice" and his "ability to
mesh blues, R&B and soul". "Passionate... distinctive and often
compelling... Costello's vocals are most astonishing," reported Blues
As a guitarist he was astounding, but for Sean it was never about
showing off monstrous chops or stroking his own ego. His playing always
fit the song; he would work the tone and phrasing, sometimes with an
economy of notes that let the empty spaces hang achingly for what seemed
like hours. When he did take off on the occasional blazing run, he was
the ultimate tightrope walker, flirting fearlessly with danger before
bringing it all back home with the unlikeliest of phrases that was
still, somehow, perfect.
In 2007 Costello's playing on Nappy Brown's comeback album, Long Time Coming, was singled out for praise by the critics. The following year Costello released what was to be his last album, We Can Get Together, acclaimed by many as his best work. His guitar playing on this record was described variously as "incendiary","searing", and "blistering red hot". Hal Horowitz of the Allmusic guide wrote the following:
The material is so strong and the ensemble playing of his band so
effortless that he doesn't need to distract attention from the songs
with the extended soloing he is capable of... he establishes a greasy
groove that weaves through each cut, connecting them even when the
styles differ. While Costello is clearly inspired by the blues greats,
many of whom he has covered on previous collections, he slants more to
'70s Southern soul, rock, and R&B here, dousing these genres with a
bucket load of swamp water and spearheaded by his whiskey-laced vocals.
There's a thick, gooey atmospheric vibe that hangs over the album, gels
its contents, and shows Costello to be a terrific singer and songwriter
and guitar talent just hitting his peak.