Asbury Park-based singer-songwriter Sean Tobin is the 2022 Makin Waves Male Artist of the Year and one of my Dirty Jersey Dozen independent acts who made the most waves, whose preceding LP, “Ghost of the Arcade,” was a Top 3 album that spawned two Top 10 songs on my year-end lists. And that’s just a small portion of the success he had in 2022, so what he does next has a lot to live up to. But the three-song EP “Live in Asbury Park” due on Jan. 20 is more like a souvenir from an 11-state tour that proved Sean and his band, the Boardwalk Fire, have the goods to be Asbury’s next national act.
Captured at The Stone Pony in early November, the EP’s only previously unreleased material is a cover of The Gaslight Anthem’s ode to Asbury Park, “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts.” Sean intros with a great tale about he and a friend seeing Gaslight at the age of 14 at the adjacent Stone Pony Summerstage. He shares how the show inspired him to become a singer-songwriter and musician. His story inspired a fond recollection of a 14-year-old me hearing Bruce Springsteen for the first time live from the Capitol Theatre on WNEW 102.7-FM. And here we both are today thanks to those sweet inspirations!
Like Gaslight, Sean Tobin & the Boardwalk Fire are very much a cross between the rootsy lyricism of Bruce, as well as Johnny Cash, and the punk of The Clash and Social Distortion, placing them squarely in Asbury’s Johnny Clash tradition that also spawned The Vansaders, Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son, Sammy Kay, and Chris Brown. A strong Celtic stream also runs through Sean’s music along the lines of The Waterboys, largely propelled on the EP by fiddler Evan Fitzgerald of the Asbury bluegrass band Dark City Strings (who was sitting in for Boardwalk Fire’s Sean-David Cunningham). The Irish lilt makes “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts” the band’s own.
A bit of the Celtic vibe also is on the opener, the lively love song “This Morning, With Her,” the early light of which eases the complexities of the relationship chronicled. Off the 2020 LP “East Coast Artifacts,” the live version features great harmony vocals by bassist Jack Breslin, as well as lush soul from Asbury organ great (and Boardwalk Fire guest) Ryan Gregg of Shady Street Show Band and Ocean Avenue Stompers.
The all-too-brief live EP closes with the all-too-brief acoustic reflection of “Ten-Cent Conversations” from Sean’s latest and greatest LP, “Ghost of the Arcade.” The haunting song is from the viewpoint of a workforce zombie filled with wanderlust looking out the window of a commuter train scared that he will become his unfulfilled, yet faithful father, but refusing to give up on his own family, broken dreams, and old haunts. Sean captures it well enough to inspire a listen, hopefully even a purchase of the whole “Ghost” album, which I highly recommend.
Live, Sean Tobin & the Boardwalk Fire — also drummer Dave Patiño and lead guitarist Jake Garbe — next can be enjoyed Feb. 11 at Finnegan’s Pub in Hoboken with Troy Millette & the Fire Below led by a Vermont singer-songwriter who not only shares a similar band name, but also the haunting theme of his 2019 EP, “Living with a Ghost,” and its 2018 single, “Ghosts (Of What We Used to Be).”
Sean & band then will head on a weekend trek to New England. He also will participate solo acoustic in the inaugural Writers Round: New Jersey, a Garden State offshoot of the L.A. songwriters circle. Curated by Jersey singer-songwriters Rory D’Lasnow and Jackie June, the first Round will be Feb. 1 at Crossroads, Garwood, also with Jessica Rose, Gina Royale, Alex Julia, Catch Me If You Can, aka Ryan Hanratty, and Emily Case & Dan See of the band Spit Shine.
Sean also will play solo for a Musicians on a Mission event on Feb. 26 at Thompson Park Gallery in the Lincroft section of Middletown. MOAM and the Monmouth County Park System have teamed to present “Come to Your Senses,” a sensory feast that will benefit Special People United to Ride (SPUR), a nonprofit that provides the disabled with the opportunity to achieve personal goals through therapeutic horsemanship. The event will stimulate all five senses:
* See — Art exhibition
* Hear — Five musicians spanning as many genres, also Chuck Lambert, Pam McCoy, Izzy Mizell, and Kevin Daly of Daly Rituals
* Touch: Massage therapy
* Smell — Fragrant soaps and candles available from Brielle Soap
* Taste — Light gourmet fare.
For all these sensory delights, the suggested donation is only $20. There also will be a chance to further support SPUR with raffle tickets for a gift auction. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at https://www.musiciansonamission.org. For more information about SPUR, visit https://spuronline.org/.
For more about Sean, visit https://seantobinmusic.com.