Royal Potato Family

Dig into what is now a catalogue of five studio albums and you’ll find that Alabama-based singer/songwriter Grayson Capps has always created music with a mind and a voice older than he. Capps’ new The Lost Cause Minstrels adds the sort of introspection and wisdom that come from 44 years of living to his already well-established Robert Hunter-like ability to paint big ol’ pictures full of big ol’ characters with his words.

One thing you need to understand about Capps is that he’s not just a good storyteller; he’s lived this shit.

You want to know what “Coconut Moonshine” really tastes like? Grayson Capps knows. (From the song of the same name: “Oh it tastes so good/Oh, it tastes so sweet/Tastes like fresh, raw coconut milk/But it burns like canned heat.”)

You want to know the kind of depressing reality that settles on you while out on the road trying to make a living playing music? Ask Grayson Capps. (From “Yes You Are”: “A 35-dollar hotel room/75 dollars for gas/I made a hundred dollars last night, baby/You can do the math.”)

You want to know about the sort of epiphanies that can only come from too many hours on the road spent trying to put a bad scene behind you? (From the album-opening charge of “Highway 42”: “The only damage I know came directly from me.”)

You want to know about fucking up; redemption; the freedom of having nothing; the grace of a big man “dancin’ like Anthony Quinn”; and the sheer joy of knowing real love? You could try to walk a mile in Grayson Capps’ shoes – or you can listen to The Lost Cause Minstrels. It’s all contained within.

Hand-in-hand with that fine tunesmithing is some killer musicianship. The core group of Capps’ Lost Cause Minstrels – guitarist Corky Hughes, Chris Spieson on keys, and the rhythm team of bassist Christian Gizzard and drummer John Milham – totally gets the souls of Capps’ stories and helps bring them to life. The Minstrels pull off everything from swampy swagger and Big Easy rhythms that would give 7 Walkers a run for their money (dig the cool nastiness of “Coconut Moonshine” or the big Mardi Gras grin of “Ol’ Slac”) to air guitar-inducing rockers that aren’t afraid to just plain brace off and play their living asses off. Check out “No Definitions”: at about the 3:40 mark, Capps lets out a mournful moan and the band slams to a lurching halt. There’s a moment of dead silence – except for Capps sucking in a lungful of air. There’s a stutter of bass; Capps snaps out the punchline one more time; and they’re off – rolling and tumbling and snapping and biting through 2 minutes and 17 seconds of gritty, sweaty, blues-puking mayhem.

Capps’ long-time partner Trina Shoemaker co-produced The Lost Cause Minstrels and the resulting sonic textures complement the music well – from creating the graveyard rhythm section of “John The Dagger” (you listen for yourself and tell me if that doesn’t sound like a lineup of skeletons clapping their bony hands) to capturing everything there is to savor in the single acoustic piano note that ushers in “Chief Seattle”.

The Lost Cause Minstrels is a Grayson Capps album, for sure – but it’s also an amazing team effort among the man out front, his band behind him, and a veteran producer/engineer who knows how to handle them all. And to top it all off are a cluster of hellacious half-shitfaced stories and absolute truths.

You couldn’t live long enough to live all of this.