Checking out their website, I note that this Michigan-based duo set out together in 1982, and this is their eighth full length album. And all this time I have been blissfully unaware of their quite considerable talent...!! Have I got a leg to stand on?
Well let me play this CD three times all the way through...and see. I will be back to you in a day or two.
Talk amongst yourselves whilst I deliberate.
[Four days later...]
Before I put the disc on play, I checked out their rather fine website in the hope that I would find a section marked “Lyrics”. Alas no such luck. I guess I have been spoiled lately by artistes putting the whole of an album’s lyrics up on their website: thus it was that despite vocalist Annie’s fine diction, I felt at a slight disadvantage here. In choruses I thus found myself occasionally straining to catch - admittedly only occasional - words: but there’s no need for it in 2019.
And before playing the CD I noted their website says of them...
” Impossible to pigeon-hole into any one genre, the Capps' sound meets at the intersection of Americana & Folk with rock, jazz and bluegrass influences.”
And three plays later, I must declare that they are spot-on there. They are impossible to easily label: mind you, labelling music is always ultimately a bit futile. Labels are for jam jars.
What one can say with a degree of certainty, is that this CD exudes musical excellence: Annie’s tuneful vocals; husband Rod’s viola and guitar; Jason Dennie’s mandolin; and Drew Howard’s pedal steel, really stood out. But I have to question whether the manifestly well-constructed, largely self-penned songs are really quite worthy of their major talent as recording artistes. You could put a gun to my head and ask me to hum any one of the 12 tracks I have listened to over the past four days, and I would say “shoot me now and get it over with”. (Actually that is not quite true: I could hum the melody of Patience...the one track they did not write.)
But I urge this duo not to take my words to heart: perhaps I have my ears on wrong. Mind you, it is not that there is anything wrong with any of the melodies: they are not too formulaic. It is just that they have not lodged themselves in my memory.
And having read that last paragraph, I want to breathe those words back in. I realise there is one song that has made a big impression on me, and has a sweet chorus that I am singing sotto voce as I write. That song is the distinctly original Happy New Year.
It is a song that recognizes the fact that New Year’s Eve/Day is the “do it 24 hours” for suicide wannabes. And here we have two would-be jumpers from a suicide hotspot...meeting by chance at the 59th minute of their 11th hour. And ... [spoiler alert] ...they fall in love and turn their lives around. It is a heck of a life-enhancing song, which tells me that Annie and Rod have a real talent as songwriters.
One senses from their liner/promo notes that they see the songs on this album as following a theme. They say “Ranging from whimsical and light to moody and dramatic, this batch of songs existed as separate expeditions across life’s bigger questions until the title When They Fall unified them under one cohesive collection”.
Do I see this “falling” metaphor linking the songs? I suppose so, but er... ...alas, I must say that I am not persuaded, M’lud.
But I am rather taken with albums that follow a theme. And that leads me to an idea. Their penultimate track This Little Apple, which they called in the style of an “anthemic folk song”, doesn’t quite work for me, but has I believe the passport to their creative future.
In the song, they pay homage to some musical celebrities who have recently left us. From my memory, Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin, Tom Petty, Glenn Frey and Prince Rogers Nelson, are some of the names they cite. And here is my idea: why not write an album of songs with each one capturing the spirit of a particular hero of theirs? And it does not have to be a musician necessarily. It could be JFK, MLK, Muhammad Ali, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham...you get my drift?
And call it “Big Shoes To Fill”. Man...they have musical performance talent in spades, and maybe – just maybe – this can bring a quality of songwriting across the CD to match their outstanding Happy New Year.
Photo Credits: Annie & Rod Capps (by Jennifer Prouty).