· By Mattias Forsgren

Austin-based UT-math professor / folk artist Sean Keel reveal the raw, starkly evocative record ferals welcome; his second album after signing with Icons Creating Evil Art

“The whole thing was a freak accident,” Sean Keel said about the unlikely set of circumstances that led to the release of the Austin-based singer-songwriter’s raw, starkly evocative record, 'a dry scary blue', with the independent Stockholm-based label, Icons Creating Evil Art. Now, one year later, Sean Keel together with Icons Creating Evil Art introduces the next step in the Sean Keel saga – the new album 'ferals welcome' to be released June 5th. The album is preceded by three singles with exclusive b-sides. Once again we're invited into a collection of raw, starkly evocative emotionally complex songs in the tradition of Townes van Zandt, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. If you've heard anything that punches at this weight and sounds a whole lot like it, it probably means someone more mainstream (a very easy standard) had the good luck to hear Keel and the good sense to rip him off.

Keel leans dark, but 'spiders', and the two singles to follow, show he also knows how to have a little fun. 'spiders', the music for which was originally composed during a live jam on his back porch, is something between a song and an old time radio drama. Give it a listen. According to Keel "I'll be disappointed if it reminds anyone a whole lot of any other song they've heard". The song, as hopefully anyone listening will realize, is about two brothers on a horseback trip in west Texas. The Joe voice is Jack Corcoran’s.

'melon' is a collaboration between Keel, who wrote the words, and his son in law, Ben Montaño, who wrote the music. Ben was born in the 90s, but one can tell he digs the country rock of the 1970s – 'melon' feels a little like a lost track from the Basement Tapes. Keel adds, "This song is very (very) loosely based on the 1970 bombing of a building at the University of Wisconsin".

'laurentian divide', according to Keel, is another true story in which only the facts are fake. As bare bones country as it gets, it might not get covered by Taylor Swift, but its a good bet Sturgill Simpson would like it, and probably wish that it was his. Keel adds, "What happens to the guy in the story happened to me, but in a different way and in a different place".

The album's producer is the multi-talented Gabriel Rhodes. The son of famed singer Kimmie Rhodes and step-son of the influential DJ Joe Gracey, Gabe is alt-country royalty, having worked with a wide assortment of artists including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris.

“Gabe’s pretty amazing,” Keel notes. “I had all the songs written before we ever met. I recorded scratch guitar tracks and then vocal for each on garage band and sent them to Gabe, to do with them whatever he thought would be cool. I was really surprised by the results. What Gabe makes, his best stuff, they are musical movies. He got what was going on in my songs, and he made musical movies about them. Its a really cool collaboration. We are both really proud of the record. In part because it’s nothing like anything either of us would do on our own.”

Keel is not your ordinary outsider. In his 60s, the long-time University of Texas professor, is well-known in the world of research mathematics. He has written a sword and sorcery novel, lots of short stories and poetry. He’s made three folk/jazz records with his family band, Bill the Pony, and one album of “super bare-bones folk-country music.” All self released, and all in complete obscurity. On the suggestion of a music friend he decided to have his latest record produced by a professional. Surprised by the results, he sent the first mix of the first song to Icons Creating Evil Art, hoping they would post it on their Youtube channel (The 'Discovered by ICEA' series). By happy chance, the label’s founder and owner was the one who listened. Impressed, and in an odd mood, he decided it was time to act on his long brewing scheme of giving a promotional push to a complete unknown.
The release of 'a dry scary blue' in the end of 2022 was the first step in the experiment, which got great reviews and landed Sean Keel an invitation to come plat the Live At Heart Festival in Örebro, Sweden - where he played several shows to full houses, both on his own and with his family in different settings (including a Bill the Pony show).



Carl-Marcus Gidlöf
Head of the Snake
Icons Creating Evil Art
Råsundavägen 73, Solna