By Matt Wickstrom
LEXINGTON, Ky. — We’re excited today to premiere “S.O.B.,” the latest single from “High Expectations,” the sophomore album from Paintesville-based singer-songwriter Sean Whiting, which drops May 3 on Louisville-based Eastwood Records.
The ballad tells the tale of getting into a bit too much trouble to weave your way out of after having one too many. Whiting alludes to being tazed through his car’s sunroof leading to him peeing his pants, ultimately leaving him up sh*t creek without a paddle, at least as far as he can tell. Take a listen below and decide for yourself.
A truck driver and a coal miner in his past lives, Whiting pulls his blue-collar sensibility into much of the album, his first on Louisville’s Eastwood Records. Ten songs born of the American dream, each as rugged as the next, Whiting’s new batch of music is fueled on a diet of blues music and Appalachian tradition. “High Expectations” was recorded inside Fat Baby Studios in Whitesburg, Ky; with Kenny Miles (Laid Back Country Picker, Wayne Graham) and boasts contributions from long-standing collaborators David Prince (guitar), Chris Justice (bass) and Hayden Miles (drums), all stalwart craftsmen who skillfully thread together gritty rock styles and swarthy Americana musicianship. The group of musicians are also well-acquainted with one another, regularly performing together as members of Laid Back Country Picker, Luna & The Mountain Jets, and Wayne Graham.
Musically, Whiting has always been an avid student of the greats, from such rock trailblazers as the Allman Brothers and ZZ Top to country forebears like Hank Williams Jr. He was raised by a single mother and learned a great deal about music and live performance from his grandfather, who often towed him along to his own gigs and those of his contemporaries. Whiting began singing and playing drums at five years old, which opened the floodgates late for his fascination with the trumpet, and the guitar in his teens.
“My grandfather was the type of person who’d play anywhere,” Whiting says. “It didn’t matter to him if he was playing in somebody’s garage or in a nice venue. I was the only grandchild and so I’d tag along. Many times, we’d have people over at home and be sitting and playing all these different instruments.”
Those early experiences, which included jam sessions to classic George Jones and Johnny Cash tunes, taught him the importance of tight-knit harmony work and layering of instruments. By the time he was 19, Whiting began a moderate career in local cover bands and played all across the tri-state area of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. In doing so, he cut his teeth on what it meant to be a working musician.
But he wouldn’t release his first proper studio record, “Finally the Beginning,” until March 2017. “I’ve been making music for 20 years, but I’ve always had another job,” Whiting says. A truck driver and a coal miner in his past lives, Whiting pulls that blue-collar sensibility into much of the new album, his first on Louisville’s Eastwood Records. In the aftermath of his mother’s death and losing his job in the coal industry, he decided to take the plunge and make music his full-time gig.
“High Expectations” thrives with a glorious spirit finally finding its way in the world. Even with “S.O.B.,” the album’s searing moment of unapologetic levity, he winds up a good time of traditional honky-tonk-bent country music with his undeniable charm and an intentionally over-the-top dosage of curse words. Whiting is as much a beacon of truth as those who came before him, harkening to much of Chris Stapleton’s work, as well as the Turnpike Troubadours and Loretta Lynn. But there’s an even more prominent edge to his lyrics than you might expect. He leaves you speechless one minute and singing along at the top of your lungs the next.
“High Expectations” is due out on May 3. Whiting will celebrate the release of the album with a May 9 bash at Cosmic Charlie’s in Lexington with support from Luna & The Mountain Jets, Wayne Graham, Chelsea Nolan and Brother Smith, among others.
For more on Whiting, listen back on his Sept. 24, 2018 appearance with me on Wick’s Picks on Lexington Community Radio, below.