Grayson Capps

Grayson Capps
Wail & Ride


By Art Tipaldi
October 2007

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Grayson Capps is an eclectic singer songwriter who, in another time, could have been Woody Guthrie’s runnin’ mate.

While studying at Tulane University in New Orleans, Grayson started a band called the House Levellers, and played a music they called “thrash-folk.” Within a year after graduation, they were signed by Tipitina’s record label, bought a 1977 Plymouth Voyager van, and toured America for three years non-stop.

Once they broke up, Capps moved onto a stretch of houses on the railroad tracks off Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, teamed up with John Lawrence, started a two-man band called Stavin’ Chain and recorded for Ruf Records. Most recently, Capps wrote four songs for the 2004 John Travolta movie,A Love Song For Bobby Long.

Capps, who turned 36 in 2006, sings and plays a quirky amalgam of raucous country, folk, and blues. After losing his New Orleans home of 20 years on S. Front Street to Hurricane Katrina, Capps put together a first hand account of his journey from his beloved New Orleans home during the ferocious storm. But Capps’ razor sharp imagery and emotional moments are good enough to universalize that tragedy.

For an account of what Crescent City dwellers were feeling then and now, just listen to his “New Orleans Waltz.” Punctuated with lines about the alleged lies FEMA and Pres. Bush told, Capps urges all to rebuild this uniquely American city. From there, the record becomes a picture album filled with vivid moments Capps sees in New Orleans. “Poison,” is a lively snapshot of the raw party life one would find throughout the tiny New Orleans streets. Once those parties end, the nighttime characters rise up. “Broomy” is Capps’ tale of old timers who sweep the party remains. And on “Junkman,” Capps’ folksy rhythms underscore the message: as we walk by the homeless who push their lives in a shopping cart, we must notice. This might be Capps’ ultimate New Orleans tragedy - those who American has let live and die unnoticed.

Capps’ gritty guitar is the glue that holds “Ed Lee” together. Capps, who lived in a New Orleans version of Cannery Row, tells about Ed Lee, who moved out of his shotgun home to live, and drink, in a shack on the Conecuh River. Oh yeah, Capps gives us perfect directions to find the house, including Lee’s whiskey bottle fence.

The record ends with “Waterhole Branch,” a dreamy, acoustic portrait of everyday life one experiences away from the roar of the city. The chirping cicadas after the song ends set the perfect mood one would feel living in this tiny hamlet.

Amid the flash and glitter of today’s music “business,” Grayson Capps is the storyteller who’s hitched and hoboed the roads. And his tales are the stuff of the life he’s witnessed.

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