Sean McCann and the Committed impress during intimate performance

By Ellie Rulon-Miller

Ellie Rulon-Miller/Collegian

Séan McCann and the Committed made their eighth stop on their first tour together in Northampton Monday night at the Iron Horse Music Hall.

The group, consisting of McCann, Craig Young and Kelly Russell, effortlessly combined elements of their Newfoundland folk music backgrounds with their mutual love for country songs in impressive harmony. The band formed so recently that they have only played about a dozen shows together to date.

The setting was perfect for such an intimate occasion: the Iron Horse was set up for dinner service, as per usual for 7 p.m. shows, with the lights dimmed low and tables of families and friends sipping Guinness and quietly chatting until the trio took to the stage.

The group opened with “Long Road,” off of McCann’s recently released “Son of a Sailor.” The song set the tone for the night quite nicely as it was a fitting representation of the singer-songwriter’s Newfoundland folk roots. McCan’s acoustic guitar was complemented by a harmonizing sitar and fiddle, played by Young and Russell, respectively.

Throughout the performance the three band mates alternated instruments several times. McCann picked up his bodhrán, an instrument he is famous for playing with Great Big Sea (the band he has been touring with for almost two decades), for a handful of songs.

Young, who has stated that playing in small clubs has had a great influence on his playing, alternated between mandolin and sitar and contributed his smooth, deep vocals to the mix when he sang a song he wrote for his wife. His influences are primarily country musicians, which is reflected in this song. The tune, a slow, straight-up country one, offered a change of pace halfway through the show.

Russell did not cease to impress with his fiddle and concertina use, playing some very fast and complex parts and solos throughout the concert.

During a brief pause in playing, McCann told of the unusual recording process for “Son of a Sailor,” saying that he met Young and Russell while writing the record and, during production, the two did not meet. They went into the studio on different days and recorded their parts without even hearing what the other had done, McCann said, and it sounded perfect. As he finished the story, McCann said to his band mates, “You’re good people, boys,” and then transitioned into a song called “Good People.”

It’s almost impossible to explain how simple the group made the blending of genres appear. Their songs transitioned seamlessly from folk to country and back again. The same goes for their use of fast and slow songs. Not once did McCann and the Committed play anything that went against the atmosphere that had been created; they wouldn’t play more than one slow or fast song at a time, and saved what was arguably the highlight of the entire performance for the very end.

Before reaching the pinnacle of the night, though, there was a secondary highlight to the show. The trio performed the classic song “I’m A Rover,” a traditional tune McCann is known for singing with Great Big Sea.

The group also played a ballad dedicated to McCann’s grandparents and describing their romance over the years of their relationship.

The most memorable moment of the show was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the encore, during which the band broke out into a rendition of another popular traditional folk song, “The Night Paddy Murphy Died.” The Committed pulled out all the stops for this one and it worked everyone up like no other song they performed. The Iron Horse shook as everyone stomped their feet with the rhythm of the song.

In the middle of the show, McCann told a story about the formation of the group. He ended the tale saying, “We are the Committed, and we are committed to you.”

If one thing was made crystal clear during their performance, it was just that: the band’s commitment to putting on a good show for their committed fans.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at [email protected]