Record Of The Week # 36

January 3, 2018

Grayson Capps – Scarlett Roses

It’s been six years since Grayson Capp’s last solo album but Scarlett Roses is well worth the wait. This sixth release is a compelling combination of interesting words, great tunes, arrangements and production values that elevate this to one of the best late 2017 releases.

Capps appears to have now settled in Mobile Bay with his family after spells in New Orleans and Nashville. On my cycling travels then I have a working knowledge of many parts of the USA. In fact I well remember the ferry ride from Dauphin Island across the neck of Mobile Bay in Alabama. On the other side of this brief ferry ride was a continuing route along the Gulf Coast to Florida. It transpires that I was only 30 miles away from Fairhope, Capps’ new domicile. A really beautiful place to live.

The album reflects on life and love. In fact the lyrics are a highlight – we trip from lightweight love ditties such as “Hold Me Darlin’” to the dreamy musings on, the title track, “Scarlett Roses”.

On this Capps explains “That song came to me in that whole whirlpool of dreams, mixing emotions about old love and daughters and sons and ageing parents, it’s an interesting thing that happens when you let yourself enter that relaxed, hypnotic trance state. You start singing and all these lyrics just start coming from all these different places.”

                                                                      “I watched you sail out on the ocean’

For a land to find your dreams’

You held out scarlet colored roses’

And you threw them in the ocean’

And they floated right on back to me.”

The album, if it has to be placed in a genre, is very much Country Rock. The pop sensibilities blend nicely with Americana (and its rougher-hewn edges). The ‘Rock’ comes from the long time collaborator, Corky Hughes, who wields a mighty axe. His career has included Black Oak Arkansas and he can either deftly fill in or ignite with a blistering solo.

Such an opportunity presents itself on “Taos” where excoriating distortion with a brooding thumping backing track allows Capps to howl about a 1,500 mile drive across Louisiana, Texas to New Mexico. Eventually the song slowly grinds to a close with feedback. The speakers bubble and gurgle worthy of Neil Young. I can well imagine playing this frightening loud and beating the steering wheel as the miles slip beneath the wheels. Enormous.

 “Bag Of Weed” is a James McMurtry type trip around the community with characters he comes across explained and sympathised with as they struggle. This cinematic song is pure Country in its melody and delivery. Capps has explained, when playing this live, that it serves as some form of antidote to the typical Nashville lyrics that have little resonance for him at least.

The album has shade and light in the sound. Production was shared between Hughes, Capps and Trina Shoemaker, his accomplished wife.  Shoemaker has worked with Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, Rodney Crowell and the Dixie Chicks.

“Moving On” showcases Capps attractive voice – it holds a melody beautifully and demonstrates its character with a slight huskiness. The song is a Country tune drenched in harmonies and harmonica with ‘Dicky Betts’ guitar signatures, a rolling gait rhythm supported by an acoustic foundation.

Capps in all his interviews seems to talk about finding peace. Clearly the album came together over a period of time; it gives an insight into his mindset as he clocks up a half century. On “New Again” he throws in some thoughts on growing old:

                                                                      “I’m getting old, my friends have died

I never got to say goodbye,

The dead they don’t miss you when they’re gone

Me too I’ll up and die,

But for now I’m still alive”

Despite his reflections on mortality then I expect there’s life in him yet. If you’re new to this talent then I urge you to catch up. 

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