Grayson Capps – South Front Street
CD: 16 Songs, 65 Minutes
Styles: Mellow Blues, Contemporary Acoustic and Electric Blues, All Original Songs
Venture into any art museum. What do you see? Paintings, statues, sculptures, mobiles, all sorts of subjects depicted via all sorts of mediums. Some exhibits excite you. Others baffle you. Still others make you sit down on a bench and think. Taken separately, they’re self-contained entities unto themselves, but together they form a cohesive whole. This describes the retrospective album from Alabama singer-songwriter Grayson Capps, entitled South Front Street. Think of his style as Dave Matthews meets Neil Young meets a dash of Bruce Springsteen. Most of the sixteen original songs are meditative, bordering on melancholy (“New Again,” “Washboard Lisa,” “Daddy’s Eyes”). Still, a few will get your toes tapping and your hands clapping (“Train Song,” “Hold Me Darlin’,” “Psychic Channel Blues”). As a group, they present a timeline of Capps’ greatest work from 1997-2019. Is it blues? Yes, in the mellow acoustic/electric sense a la Neil Young and Eric Clapton. Fans will love it. Newcomers will gain lots of food for thought.
In the album’s liner notes, Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer Trina Shoemaker explains: “I began this as a personal compilation that I sequenced for myself. It is a collection of songs that paint a picture of our life together and reveals a world from the uniquely enchanted, poetic and tormented perspective of Grayson Capps.” She later continues: “These songs capture a life in motion, in pain and joy, in gain and loss, in humility and grace.” The title comes from the street where Capps lived, in a shotgun house along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, amid an assortment of outsiders and ne’er-do-wells that he credits as the inspiration for finding his voice as a songwriter. It follows Grayson and Trina’s life in NOLA, their relocation to Nashville after Hurricane Katrina, and a subsequent return to the Gulf Coast. One might recognize material from Capps’ critically-acclaimed band Stavin’ Chain and his role in the cult film A Love Song for Bobby Long, starring Scarlett Johansson and John Travolta.
For a detailed list of musicians on this CD, check the liner notes. Trina Shoemaker herself guest stars on harmony vocals for track thirteen, “Daddy’s Eyes,” first featured on Wail & Ride (2006).
“May We Love” is the album’s first standout track, full of gorgeous harmony, lilting collective instrumentation, and a plea for understanding. “Let go of your notions of simple space and time. Don’t get jailed by emotions. Empty out your mind. I know you’re worried about money, but it’s all gonna be okay. Just do what you love, and love every day. Hear my plea; hear my plea.” It’s a remix of the version on Love Songs, Mermaids and Grappa (2016). Next comes “Train Song” from Stavin’ Chain – Collected Songs (1997). It’s a growling rocker featuring some wicked dobro from John Lawrence and funky bassline by Anthony “AG” Hardesty. “Psychic Channel Blues” from Rott-N-Roll (2008) isn’t about a scam on TV, but the “psychic channel” in the brain of our narrator’s lover. “If I’m unfaithful,” he says, “you know that phone line’s gonna ring.”
The most remarkable thing about this CD is that Grayson Capps remixed and revisited his earlier songs instead of copy-pasting tracks from his older albums. He wanted a fresh take on his previous work and the results turned out to be stunning. Slow or fast, happy or sad, it’s all art!