Sunday, November 27, 2016

Steven Graves: “Captain Soul” (2017) CD Review

Steven Graves is a singer, guitarist and songwriter based in Santa Cruz, California. He has six albums out, with a seventh on the way. This new one, Captain Soul, has a different feel from his previous release, Mission Bell. While that album is largely dominated by folk and country sounds, Captain Soul is more of a rock album, apparent right from its opening track, the lively and bluesy “Light Turns To Day.” That of course doesn’t mean that the lyrics don’t have substance. Here is a taste from that opening track: “A seer and a seeker/A warrior of the light/Two worlds collide/And waves crashing through the night/I’m carried away, I’m carried away/Carried on down the road/Try to find the will to live/So I can carry this heavy load.” I like the backing vocals on this track, provided by Alysha Antonino, Tammi Brown and Bryan Dyer. The familiar message here that “Love conquers all” is one that we need to be reminded of these days, as our frustrations and shock easily turn to anger. The song becomes a good jam toward the end.

That’s followed by “Man From A Different Planet,” in which Steven Graves sings, “I’m a man from a different planet/My people look kind of strange/I don’t know what I’m doing here/But some things have got to change.” Oh yes, a lot of us feel that way these days, eh? And we’ll all be turning to music more than ever, I imagine, for answers, or at least for some comfort. This song has a fun, upbeat energy, and then nearly three minutes in, it takes an abrupt turn, toward a Pink Floyd sort of vibe, and ends with a little nod to David Bowie. Apparently the song was being recorded when they got the news of David Bowie’s death.

I like that song a lot, but “Walk With Me” might be my favorite. It has a sweeter vibe, and is a song you can really latch onto. You know? It features some gentle horns and nice work on piano, plus a good, passionate vocal performance. Yes, it’s exactly the kind of song I’m looking for and needing now. “Won’t you walk with me/To a better day.” Wonderful.

There are more positive vibes on “Somewhere, Somehow,” in which Steven sings, “I don’t want to hear about all the things that are wrong/I just want to feel your love and keep singing my song/It’s all right, baby, yeah, it’s all right now/We’re all going to find some love someday somehow.” Armen Boyd adds some great touches on saxophone. Then in “Fly Like The Dove,” Steven sings, “You gotta find peace/You gotta find love,” a good message for these days. And yes, with the children’s choir singing, it’s a song that ordinarily I would find several shades of cheesy, but things have shifted enough that this song is actually hitting me in a fairly strong way. I would still cut out the child talking at the end, however.

“Heaven In Your Hands” has a mellow, passionate beauty which I appreciate. “They said we’d be together/’Til death do us apart/What we had was eternal love/Straight from the heart/Minutes turn to hours/Hours turn to days/Before you know it, it’s come and gone/As the time just slips away.” Bruce Wandmayer plays pedal steel on this track, and Art Alm provides some sweet, sad stuff on piano. The CD then concludes with another of my favorites, “Another Day.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I want to know before I go/That I gave it all I had/That I loved everyone I could/Through the good and the bad/Life is what you make it/Or so they say/I’m just hanging on/Because tomorrow is another day.” And in these questionable times, these lines have a special and clear meaning: “There’s so much love in this world/But darkness has a way/Of taking all that is good/And stealing, stealing it all away.”

CD Track List
  1. Light Turns To Day
  2. Man From A Different Planet
  3. Walk With Me
  4. Somewhere, Somehow
  5. Take You For A Ride
  6. Fly Like The Dove
  7. Forever Wild
  8. Called Her An Angel
  9. No One Left To Blame
  10. Heaven In Your Hands
  11. Another Day 
Captain Soul is scheduled to be released on January 4, 2017.

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