Sean Costello, 1979-2008 

The tragic death of an Atlanta bluesman

Page 4 of 5

Four years passed before Costello followed up the Sean Costello CD with We Can Get Together on Delta Groove Productions. With the new CD, Costello's emphasis on the art of songwriting returned with a vengeance. Nine of the 12 songs are original numbers that delve into the grooves of rock, R&B, funk and gospel while never losing sight of his blues roots. In his interview with A1, Costello talked about one original song, "Same Old Game."

"That song is about trying to reinvent myself," he said. "For the last record [Sean Costello], I was given a big advance and it was supposed to be my big break but everything went wrong, basically, and I had a hard time recovering from that. I went to a bigger agency and wasn't working as much I was used to working, and I was having a rough time recovering from everything. In that song, I'm talking about how I'm trying to come up with my own sound. If people don't like it, then so be it. Whereas before I was trying to be very respectful of the tradition and was sort of copying other people's music, that song is about having a new attitude and a new take on things."

We Can Get Together seemed like another chance at stardom. But less than two months after its release, Costello was dead.

Now another song on the album grips the listener with irony. His rendition of the traditional spiritual number "Going Home" creeps with a slow, humid pace that stirs up layers of Costello's sound. In the chorus he sings, "Soon I'll be done with the troubles of this world. I'm going home to live with God."

In the wake of his passing, his voice seems to take on a reverential tone. Pull up Costello's MySpace page and it's the first song that plays. With each new visit the song rings with lingering poignancy, and the reality of his untimely death is made all the more unsettling.

On May 3 – two weeks after his death – We Can Get Together entered the Billboard blues chart in the No. 10 position.

On the morning of April 15, the Cheshire Motor Inn's manager, Lorraine Williams, thought it strange Costello hadn't checked out yet. It was past 11 a.m.

The Cheshire Motor Inn sits on Cheshire Bridge Road, alongside a succession of strip clubs and lingerie shops. By day the quaint cottages and '50s-style exterior of the inn hardly match the neighborhood's bad rep. But inside the lobby, two deep, jagged dimples that scar the bulletproof glass protecting the concierge feel like a warning of the transformation that takes place after the sun goes down.

According to Williams, Costello was a regular, who checked in at least once a month. His staying there evokes the kind of romanticized tales of down-and-out bluesmen from decades ago, traversing the demons of the landscape and staying in cheap hotels while they made their way from gig to gig.

But Trubic says there's an explanation for Costello frequenting the inn. "That's where Blind Willie's used to put all of their out of town artists," he says. "... Sean liked the Cheshire Motor Inn because it was cheap and it was local."

At the time of his death, Sean also was between living spaces and spending time on the road. He often stayed with his parents in Marietta when he wasn't on tour, but had an appointment in town at 10 that Tuesday morning.

Says Williams: "Sean came in a lot and he didn't bother people. He would come in with his guitar and he was very cordial and personable and he would go off to his room. He would come in with his guitar and say 'I need to chill.'"

That morning, after repeated calls to his room, however, Williams tried the door, only to find it chained from the inside. She was able to stick her hand in far enough to brush the curtains aside, which was enough to see Sean's body lying face down in the bed.

"I called out his name and there was no movement and I said, 'Oh, that doesn't look good,'" Williams says.

"That's when I called 911. The fire department came to cut the chain and after that the police came, and the paramedics were there in no time. He was lying across the bed and he looked very calm. The room wasn't disturbed at all, and I saw no sign of drugs and nothing else like that. I was the first one in that room with the paramedics and the policeman, and I saw nothing like that whatsoever."

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