GRAYSON CAPPS > Rott and Roll

This talented song-slinger returns with his fourth and best record yet. Rott and Roll features 13 storied songs all sung with Capps’s southern soul.

Label: HYENA
Rating: ★★★½☆

This talented song-slinger returns with his fourth and best record yet. Rott and Roll features 13 storied songs all sung with Capps’s southern soul. Take the poetry of Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, combine with Steve Earle’s edgy attitude and stir with a little cup of the bayou-blues (think Howlin’ Wolf) and you start to get a taste of Capps’s scrumptious gothic gumbo. The title of the record refers to Capps trying to strike a balance between the sinful side of living as a musician (Rott) with getting back to an easier, simpler way of country living (Roll); it’s also a metaphor for his old home (New Orleans), which he left after Hurricane Katrina, and his new life in rural Franklin, Tenn.

While the Big Easy influenced his last record (Wail & Ride), especially the heartfelt homage “New Orleans Waltz,” here Capps draws inspiration from his newfound rural roots. Recorded in his barn, and backed by his long-time touring band, the Stumpknockers, exclusively for the first time, the earthiness and live feel of this country setting comes through in the songs. The songcrafter seeks solace and inspiration in his Southern Gothic roots. Capps also continues to find inspiration in everyday life and the characters he meets in his wanderings-from ne’er-do-wells to barroom philosophers, showing listeners we all share the same hopes and fears no matter what side of the tracks we’re born on.

“Arrowhead” is an acoustic song perfect for a lazy Sunday morning; it’s marked by some fine finger-picking and a repetitious chorus where Capps is joined by a gospel choir of sultry singers. The imagery of an old arrowhead makes Capps mind drift to think about where he’s going and where he’s been. The rest of the songs range from groovy guitar-rock (“Big Black Buzzard”) to Delta blues infused with a little voodoo (“Psychic Channel Blues” and “The Waltz”). One of the most arresting compositions, which is a departure for the songwriter is “The Fear Fruit Bearing Tree” -a spoken-word piece that reflects upon a reactionary society with lines that linger long such as “disease is the ease from which we run from the truth.” Overall, Rott and Roll finds this Alabaman with his mojo working at high gear.