3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Some musicians need to travel thousands of miles to locate the area of their biggest influence. Atlanta’s Eddie 9V was lucky… he only had to drive a few hours to land in his.
Macon, Georgia’s Capricorn Studios provided much of the raw musical material a young Brooks Mason, aka Eddie 9V, imbibed growing up. From Bonnie Bramlett, Wet Willie, Charlie Daniels, and Percy Sledge, to those on the Capricorn label like The Marshall Tucker Band and, of course, The Allman Brothers Band, the recording facility hosted some of the most dominant names in Southern rock. When Eddie was ready to record his second album for well-regarded roots imprint, Ruf, he decided the Capricorn location would be a perfect environment to capture the soulful vibe he was looking for.
The decision to expand out of the blues base of his previous releases was a natural one. Eddie’s invigorating voice is close enough to that of Al Green, at least in spirit, that he has played entire sets covering songs of the legendary Memphis singer. With a batch of eight fresh originals written (along with brother and producer Lane Kelly) in the style of early ’70s Southern soul, he brought in a 12-piece band, including horns and female backing singers to corral the funky, swampy groove so prevalent in the finest music of that era.
Eddie downplays the guitar skills established on his last release to focus on vocals and songwriting. While there are a few sizzling solos, they are short, and taut, and there to enhance the tunes rather than dictate them. It’s his voice that dominates. Whether shifting into falsetto on the lost love of “Are We Through” or the acoustic-based ruminations with flute about the dangers of alcohol. I’m drinking heavy/three bottles of wine…I see the devil he’s back, Eddie sings with emotion and zero artifice.
He goes Tony Joe White-styled swamp on a cover of “‘Bout to Make Me Leave Home,” best known through Bonnie Raitt’s version, and throws in Duane Allman-infused slide guitar and Chuck Leavell-inspired piano for a tough take on “Down Along the Cove,” a version far crunchier than Dylan’s original.
A short two-minute cover of the gospel traditional “Mary Don’t You Weep” finds the church, although because Eddie neither sings nor plays much on the song, it seems like filler. The album only runs about 35 minutes so a few more new songs wouldn’t have hurt.
Still, the singer/songwriter is working in territory few other contemporary musicians, let alone those in their mid-20s, bother with. Capricorn is proudly retro and recorded, as Eddie says in the notes… “the way they would have done it in 1969.” The songs are tough, the performances are rugged and real, and Eddie 9V is clearly on his way to greater acclaim by following the music that initially, and still, inspires him.
Photo by Charla Harvey / Devious Planet