Great Big Sea’s Séan McCann steps out on his own this week with Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes, a solo collection whose title suggests the coolest kids’ album ever made, but instead offers a slightly more introspective, laid back version of the sea-salted roots rock that’s made GBS a cult favorite around the world for the last 17 years.
Inspired by the birth of his two sons, McCann turns his focus inward here; as per the album’s title, it’s bookended with a pair of hushed lullabies for his children, “Somewhere (for Fin)” and “Don’t Cry (for Keegan),” and in between, he misses his wife from the road (“Wish”), reflects on death (“Peace Among the Bones”), and serenades the early arrivals at the pub across the street (“Wasted”). You’re not going to hear a “When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)” here, in other words, but McCann’s bright, slightly ragged tenor was made for late nights and early mornings, and he’s squarely in his element here. This isn’t just a stopgap between Great Big Sea albums, and it isn’t strictly for fans of the band. It’s a weary, hopeful song cycle about getting older and trying to shoulder the burdens of manhood and familial responsibility, cut from the same rough cloth as albums like the Finn Brothers’ Everyone Is Here. This isn’t to say it sounds anything like the Finn Brothers — it doesn’t — but it carries a similar weight, and it’s aimed at the same half-hopeful, half-terrified corner of the grown-up heart.