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Grayson Capps

Scarlett Roses – 2017 (Royal Potato Family)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Grayson Capps

Grayson Capps is blessed with a soulful voice, a gift for songwriting, parents from a literary background and a wife that's a Grammy-winning producer/engineer, Trina Shoemaker. That would appear to be a winning formula, but the singer-songwriter life is uncommonly challenging, especially when one puts lots of self-induced pressure on himself as Capps did for almost a decade. He needed to step away to find some inner peace and deliver his first solo album in six years.

Capps built a writing shack in his Alabama backyard and deemed it a sanctuary free of deadlines and goals. "A lot of these songs came to me the way dreams do, where all these different bits and pieces from all these different parts of life come together. I would sit back there in that shack and just play, and things would come to me because I wasn't actually trying to make a record. Nothing was forced. It made me relax."

The eventual album was cut live in two quick sessions with just a few takes as Capps weaves through themes of separation from loved ones, fatherhood, mortality of parents and self-medication (mentions of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes in six of the nine tunes become a bit tiresome). Produced jointly by Shoemaker, Capps and long-time guitarist Corky Hughes, the album has a southern vibe that resembles early sounds of Son Volt (title track) and the Drive-by Truckers ("Bag of Weed") at times. The latter, which could be viewed as a bit cliché, can also be taken as an irreverent slight to pop country odes to beer drinking and good times.

Highlights also include the spooky, intense eight-minute "Taos," which grew out of experimentation with drum loops in Shoemaker's studio and features Hughes at his fuzzed-out best. For contrast, note the gorgeous harmonies from fellow songwriter Dylan LeBlanc in the gently rendered "New Again." Capps finds his bluesy side in the fingerpicking of "Hold Me Darlin'."

As Capps intended, this is a straight-forward, not overly complex record, bursting with strong melodies, heartfelt emotion and healthy doses of humor sprinkled in. It's less bluesy than some of his previous efforts, wedged into that edgy intersection of singer-songwriter/rock n' roll.