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If you like New Orleans/Delta blues by poetic musicians with a little bit of dirt under their fingernails, this is for you.

Blues Bash Music Review: Grayson Capps – Wail and Ride

Okay. This is a tough one to write. This is a fantastic CD; however, I think it's a CD with a problem. The problem is the song touted as being the highlight of the CD, “New Orleans Waltz.”

It would be too easy to get political about the song. That would be wrong because it would detract from the other 11 songs, which range from very good (grade of B) to phenomenal (A+). So for this review, I will step onto my soapbox regarding my problems with “New Orleans Waltz” and be done with it. You can deal with it as you wish.

Begin soapbox. First, in general, musicians cannot do political songs that target individuals with any credibility. They come off as attacks; trite and politically self-serving.

In “New Orleans Waltz,” the first verse says “Let's not complain about Mayor Ray Nagin/I think that he's done the best that he could/I just wish that people would stop pointing fingers.” In the next verse Grayson begins pointing fingers with the lines “George Bush, George Bush you're a lying hypocrite.” Is that not the definition of hypocrisy?

Believe me, there is plenty of blame to go around, and I do not want to debate right or wrong. I am focusing on the quality of the song. After listening to the rest of the CD, I am positive Grayson could have conveyed the same message with much more power without pandering if he had used his poetic talents.

I have no problem with Grayson's opinions or his political philosophy. My biggest problem with the song is I think he sold himself short of his ability to write a high quality protest song. Imagine instead the words of Neil Young's "Ohio." Instead of “Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming," suppose he had written something like “The students are right and Nixon's a murderer.” Do you really think it would be played on radio stations 30 years later? I do not think “New Orleans Waltz” is good for much other than what it is — a political slam. That, to me, does not make for a good song. End soapbox.

That said, the latest effort by Grayson Capps, Wail and Ride, is a great CD. The disk contains 12 songs and was produced by Trina Shoemaker and Grayson Capps. With a raspy juke joint voice, Grayson can belt it with the best of them. He has been compared to Delbert McClinton, J.J. Cale, Ry Cooder, and Townes Van Zandt. I can hear influences from Little Feat, Neil Young, Credence, Dr John, Jimmy Buffett, and Leon Russell, however, when it comes to the end of the day, this is pure Grayson Capps. On any given song, he gives it his own spin and voice.

In addition to being a great musician, he's an even greater poet. Listening to the lyrics of songs like “Daddy's Eyes,” “Mermaid,” and “Ed Lee” reminds me of some of the better down-to-earth song-slingers, including, but not limited to, the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Neil Young, and J.J. Cale.

Then there are the "just plain sticks in your craw" songs. These are the songs that will bury themselves inside your brain and you will find yourself still listening to them hours after the CD is turned off. These include the title cut “Wail and Ride,” “Give It to Me,” “Poison,” and “Cry Me One Tear.”

Okay, on to the report card.

"Wail and Ride" – B+: Simple fun song out of the South. Addicting rhythm.
"Jukebox" – B: Old fashioned country.
"New Orleans Waltz" – D: Good song, really good music, fails for lack of trying. To me this was a cop out.
"Daddy's Eyes" – A+: Great song, great emotion. Reason number one I gave track three a D. With this kind of ability to pen a song, there is no need for name calling!
"Give it to me" – A: Great fun. Delta blues with swing.
"Poison" – A+: Memphis beat that sticks with you for hours and hours and hours….
"Mermaid" – A+: Dark bluesy song. Reason number two I gave track three a D.
"Broomy" – A: This has a Grateful Dead feel to it. It is addictive.
"Junkman" – B: This too, is a good song, perhaps not my favorite and would probably be the lowest on this CD without the problems I had with track three. But still better than most!
"Ed Lee" – A+: Slow blues, Great, intelligent lyrics. Works very well! Turn it up! Reason number three that I gave track three a D.
"Cry Me One Tear" – A: Bluesy tune. A little bit dark, a lot a bit haunting.
"Waterhole Branch" – A-: Personal blues. Really good.

The way I see it, if I can purchase a CD with four A+ and three A songs, I have me a keeper. In the days of iPods and ripping, I can eliminate songs I have a problem with. Therefore, in my grade report, I am going to throw out the highest and lowest grade and give this one an A.

My recommendation is that if you like the Memphis/Mississippi/New Orleans/Delta blues and if you like poetic musicians with a little bit of dirt under their fingernails and homespun tales with the feel of the streets and perhaps a bit of the seedier side of life, then you should run, not walk, to your favorite source to get Wail and Ride.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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