Derek Senn — How Could a Man (May 3, 2019) Pamela MÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃéndez ÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃâ Time (22 Feb 2019)•     I learned how to play guitar late in life. Then I decided to write songs and record them. For years I worked in the lo~fi tradition of home recording, which means I basically did everything myself & all songs were certified 100% free range, non~GMO, free trade, sustainably recorded organic. YUM! But now I record in proper studios and the music tastes even better!
Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Album release: May 3, 2019
Record Label: own label
Duration:     46:06
01. Alaska   2:51 
02. How Could a Man   4:02
03. Botox   2:38
04. Be Careful What You Wish For   4:27
05. Have a Nice Day   4:08 
06. The Nuclear Family   3:35
07. Babysitter   3:36
08. Pretty Things   4:24
09. Cold Calling Can   3:57
10. The Song Mine   3:11 
11. The Oil Oligopoly   4:28
12. Some Chase a Girl   4:48
•   Engineered, co~produced, and mixed by Damon Castillo at Laurel Lane Studios, San Luis Obispo, CA
•   Mastered by Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering
•    ‘4am And Counting’ is a limited edition, 180g translucent red vinyl, released exclusively for Record Store Day 2019. Recorded live at Toe Rag Studios in London with Grammy~winning producer Liam Watson (The White Stripes ‘Elephant’), and mixed by Oli Bayston (Boxed In), the album features legendary pedal steel player BJ Cole (Elton John, Dolly Parton, Pink Floyd, Massive Attack), and harmonica player Nick Reynolds (Alabama 3 and son of the mastermind of the great train robbery, Bruce Reynolds).
•    ‘4am And Counting’ consists of 11 brand new recordings of mellow, rootsier versions of tracks off Curse Of Lono’s critically acclaimed debut album ‘Severed’ (2017) and last year’s follow~up ‘As I Fell’.
•    “We wanted to capture the vibe we get when we’re jamming late at night,” says Felix. “Toe Rag Studios is an incredible place. There are no computers. There’s no technology to tempt you. We just played everything completely live like we do when we’re messing around in our rehearsal room. We invited a few friends down and pressed record, so what you hear is exactly what was played.”
•    Curse Of Lono are best known for their deeply cinematic, wide~screen soundscapes that blend harmony~laden Americana with driving, gothic alt~rock, a unique sound that has recently earned them the prestigious ‘Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award’ at the UK Americana Awards.
•    ‘4am And Counting’ offers a more stripped~back and intimate take on some of the band’s most popular songs. The album features original artwork by British illustrator, Stuart Patience, and is accompanied by 6 session videos by award~winning film maker Gregg Houston (Van Morrison, Noel Gallagher, Two Door Cinema Club, Michael Kiwanuka).
Harold Hogan
Posted on June 11, 2019; Score: 8/10
•    You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll dance. A song~miner unearths a diamond.
•    California local Derek Senn took a weird and winding way into music, having a few early brushes with the guitar but not really picking it up seriously until his thirties. Armed with a sudden desire to write songs, he started working away diligently down in the song mine, the subject of the tenth track on How Could a Man, his third album to date. The hard work has clearly paid off, because this is a heartfelt, funny, brilliant piece of work.
•    The opening line of the record kicks in: “I had a great day of surfing, surfing in my cubicle.” It sets the tone for the record in a lot of ways. Senn has his own unique style, a mixture of satirical observation, frank confessional, and the occasional shot of poetic beauty, straight to the heart.
•    The slightly on~the~nose lyrical style might not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s such an honesty to it, and it’s delivered with such obvious good humour, that it’s impossible not to fall for its charm. Senn writes about life; he’s married with two young children and a day job, and has a lot to say. The songs range from the searing satires of suburban life on ‘Nuclear Family’ and ‘Have a Nice Day’, to the hilarious recounting of an attempt to live it up with his wife when the kids are away at camp on ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’. “We used to be hardcore, but not anymore”, he sings. This ostensibly comic song about family life ends with a line of such earnest melancholy that it makes you stop dead; this is a power Senn has, and uses to great effect across the record. Not unlike Louden Wainwright, Senn has developed a knack for saying something achingly honest and relatable with a wry smile.
•    The music itself can’t be overlooked either. A couple of the tracks are stripped down, just Senn and his acoustic, but the rest have a full band of instruments and produce an incredible range of sounds. There’s some Beck~esque stoner folk tracks, there’s some heavier Lemonheadish notes, and even some proper funk guitar at one point. The album fizzes along without a dull moment and invites multiple listens.
•    Senn is a seasoned songwriter and an accomplished musician making music for the joy of it. The freedom of working independently is something he clearly takes advantage of and revels in, writing songs in various musical styles and keeping things interesting, for his own sake as much as ours. He’s evidently having a great deal of fun, and it’s infectious. By turns silly, serious, and sonically exciting, Senn’s weird and wonderful approach is something we need more of.  • 
•   Out of the blue came an email from Derek Senn with a link to his new album. Derek is a singer~songwriter from California of whom I had not heard. My usual response would be to listen to couple of tracks and decide how to proceed — I listened to How Could A Man all the way through and then emailed Derek back to tell him I thought he was weird. Rightly, he took it as a compliment, but as a description it probably doesn’t him justice.
•   How Could A Man is Derek’s third album made with a tight band of keyboards, drums, electric guitar and/or bass and a set of terrific songs. Derek writes about his life; not just as a musician but also as a husband and father. He writes sometimes about mundane everyday life in suburban San Luis Obispo but there is always a twist and if you listen carefully you’ll realise he’s writing about so much more.
•   The opening track, ‘Alaska’ begins with the line “I had a great day of surfing” which he immediately qualifies by explaining that he was surfing in an office cubicle. I was hooked. His bio doesn’t say that he lived in Alaska but the rest of the album seems to be true, albeit with some poetic licence, so he probably did. The band has a real retro sound: the keys are Wurlitzer, B3, moog and juno with the electric guitar having a hint of Duane Eddy about it.
•   The title track is about Derek’s wife, Melanie, who sounds like an amazing lady, but it’s also about their travels and youthful dreams and their story continues in ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, another delightfully twisted song. In between them is ‘Botox’ which definitely is weird. ‘The Nuclear Family’ is horribly true of modern living: “let’s spend the nights together in our own virtual way” sums it up perfectly and ‘Babysitter’ delves rather too deeply into the messiness of small children. I could talk about every song but I have to leave you something to discover for yourselves. However, I must mention ‘The Oil Oligopoly’ addresses the contradictions of driving to the gym and then on to a protest about fossil fuels.
•   How Could A Man is available digitally via Bandcamp or as a physical copy direct from Derek’s website: It’s a long way from California but it’s well worth the wait.
Dai Jeffries