Grayson Capps

Rott 'n' Roll

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Grayson Capps recently turned 40, and although he's had several brushes with fame, he's still making his living the old fashioned way, playing every venue he can, whenever he can. He graduated from Tulane with a B.F.A. in acting and immediately started a thrash-folk band called the House Levelers that made the cover of USA Today and opened for bigger, more famous bands before breaking up. Stavin' Chain, his next band, got signed by a German label that had just arranged a distribution deal for the U.S. with PolyGram when that company was gobbled up by Universal Music. He met director Shainee Gabel in the late '90s, and she used some of Capps' tunes for the soundtrack of her documentary Anthem, which featured Willie Nelson, Michael Stipe, and Hunter S. Thompson, but the film didn't help his career. Gabel used his tunes again in A Love Song for Bobby Long, with John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson, but again there was no big cash-in. Hyena discovered a homemade album of Capps' tunes in 2004 and has been putting out his albums ever since. Critics have compared him to Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, and Jeffrey Lee Pierce, but Capps owes little to any of them. He describes his own music as "the voices of dead prophets screaming out of the mouths of town drunks," which could be a lyric from one of his tunes. The tunes here can be divided into mindless rockers and more serious, but still rocking, singer/songwriter tunes. "Gran Maw Maw" is a simple country-folk-rocker with a throwaway lyric; "Sun Don't Shine on Willy" is a chuggin' blues about a town drunk; "Big Ole Woman" is a celebration of hefty females that uses the Claude Demetrius Elvis hit "Hard Headed Woman" as its template (Tommy MacLuckie lays down a scorching guitar solo midway through). "Sock Monkey" is a mindless bit of Southern rock and the instrumental "Bacon" lets Capps show off his guitar prowess, and while the tunes are all fun, they're slight. Capps fares better on his serious songs. "Back to the Country" is an anthemic rocker that pays tribute to the Southland with a down-home lyric, driving rhythm, and nice distorted guitar work. "Arrowhead" is a poignant tribute to life's simple pleasures, delivered in a voice touched by weary joy. The singer of "Psychic Channel Blues" knows that if he cheats on his departed wife, he'll never see her again, but the temptation is still there, and the music is tense and bluesy, portraying the struggle of a man who wants to do right but fears he'll do wrong. "Guitar" is a slow-grinding blues that tells the story of a musician with nothing to show for a life on the road but his guitar and his songs. Capps' understated delivery underscores the tune's hopeless vibe.

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