Record Review 

No longer a teenage blues-guitar prodigy, Sean Costello remains a student of America's musical roots, and clearly he has been doing his homework. That's significant, as Costello is well aware, because it's this immersion into vintage styles that will separate him from such musical classmates as Jonny Lang or Kenny Wayne Shepherd. On Moanin' for Molasses, Costello and his touring band tastefully cover lesser-known blues, R&B and soul masterpieces, among them James Brown ("I Want You So Bad"), Otis Rush ("It Takes Time"), Willie Dixon ("One Kiss") and J.B. Lenoir ("Good Advice").

Better still, the band's five original tunes -- which variously credit Costello, piano/ organ player Matt Wauchope and harp man Paul Linden as writers -- are among the CD's most memorable cuts, particularly the soulful, gospel-tinged "You're a Part of Me" and the Professor Longhair-styled "Miles Away." The latter is one of three songs on the CD that feature a horn section.

If there's any quibble with the recording, it's a minor one: The estimable talents of Wauchope and Linden don't get much airtime, and both are gifted performers in their own right. However, the emphasis throughout Moanin' for Molasses is not on the skills of the individual players but instead on groove and atmosphere. And that's a refreshing type of virtuosity in its own right.

Sean Costello plays at his CD release party at the Northside Tavern Fri. and Sat., May 11-12.


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