REVIEW: Seth Ennis – ‘Mabelle’ (EP)

Making his live UK debut at last weekend’s C2C Festival was Georgia native Seth Ennis. At just 23 years old Ennis has seen his fair share of life already, growing up on a military base in Japan and then moving back to the USA in an effort to crack Nashville.

A multi-instrumentalist (he played ALL the instruments on break out song ‘Woke Up In Nashville’ – drums, bass, guitars & piano – he even did his own background vocals!) with an ear for production as well, he signed with Liz Rose’s publishing company and co-wrote ‘Three’ for Lauren Alaina and ‘Our Town’ for Tyler Farr so it’s obvious that this kid isn’t some manufactured, fly-by-night pretty boy being ‘bused in’ by the executives on Music Row.

Having seen him perform at the C2C Festival and listened to his EP I’m a convert and it will be great to see him back in the UK in the Autumn supporting Little Big Town.

The EP begins with ‘Play It Cool’, a smooth R&B influenced slice of moody modern nightclub Country. Purists will be up in arms about the beat and lack of traditional Country instruments but the song has a killer chorus and is as Country as most things put out by the likes of Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan these days.

Track 2, ‘Think and Drive’ is the EP’s stand-out song, even better than first single, “Woke up in Nashville’. Piano driven in a similar way to classic track ‘Walking in Memphis’, Ennis sings about poor decision making and his inability to say goodbye to a girl he knows is bad for him. ‘I’m always crossing blurred lines on the same two lanes, down a dead-end road, end up at your place. I’ll be hurtin’ when the morning comes but I ain’t strong enough to give it up.” His soulful, passionate voice combines beautifully with the mournful piano to provide a song of real depth that is augmented by female backing vocals. The biggest heartache on the EP yet the biggest sing along, brilliant.

Third song, ‘Fast Girl’ is lighter in tone and reminiscent of something Sam Hunt might produce. Lighter grooves and an acoustic guitar drive the song forward in a laid back, chilled manner as Ennis sings about a girl who has moved on faster than he was expecting. Shoulder grooving and finger clicking are the order of the day here, again, purists won’t find much to enjoy but Country is a broad church these days and all comers are welcome.

The final track on ‘Mabelle’ is Ennis’ first single and break-out song, ‘Woke up in Nashville’. This is another song redolent of that ‘Walking in Memphis’ vibe, piano driven and big vocals on the chorus. Clever wordplay makes the listener think that the protagonist in the song has moved on from the girl he left behind and woke up to face his new future in Nashville until he sings, “It took me long enough, but I woke up in Nashville. Thought everything I wanted was in this town but you were all I needed all along.” This is the type of song that will work in intimate venues on song writer nights whilst also wowing arena crowds with its echoing vocals and big sing along chorus.

With ‘Mabelle’, Seth Ennis has announced his arrival in a massive way. Four songs don’t seem enough and are over way too quickly but great performers always leave their audiences wanting more I suppose. Let’s hope an album is on the way sometime later this year and we don’t have to wait ages for more from this talented writer and performer who at this point in his career has the whole of Nashville laid out before him.

James Daykin (@rockjames)