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At the helm, "Captain Soul" steers to success

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"Captain Soul" is Steven Graves' seventh album.
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You’d be hard-pressed to find American roots music on radio stations today. 

The era of guitar heavy blues and heavy lyrics has come and gone. Voices like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan are heard on various playlists and dive bars across the nation.

In a time with empty lyrics streaming through the radio waves, there’ll always be people looking for something with more sustenance than the run-of-the-mill beats.

Without further delay, I’ll introduce Steven Graves.

California native Steven Graves released his seventh album Captain Soul on January 9, 2017. Since 2010, Graves has released a new album each year.

A record store owner once told me that there are two things to the sale of a music record: the title of the album and the music to back it up.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’d never heard of Steven Graves before I listened to this album. Looking back, I’m shocked that I had missed this musician in my treks of honky-tonk bars and blues festivals.

Graves has a voice that perfectly blends hints of classic rock, country western, and southern blues. What you get from this concoction is something that’s been missing from the mainstream music scene for some time.

In the past decade, guitarists are hard to come by. It’s easier to synthesize a beat and a tune from a downloaded soundtrack and make something original.

Where the problem lies is in its’ origins.

Sure, you could make something like that and it would be successful. But for how long? People in the music industry may have become narrow-minded when it comes to music; yet, it’s music like Steven Graves that makes an ear perk up and soul search for hope.

From listening to his previous albums, it’s clear that Graves gets better with each piece of work he puts out. His early setting in guttural blues has transcended into a blend of southern charm and downright, dirty fun.

All said, the name peaked my interest yet not in a great way.

Captain Soul sounds like some step-father that picked up a guitar and tried to show off for his new kids.

That’s the interesting thing about first impressions: there’s no telling what’s right and what’s wrong until it’s all said and done. By the time I had finished the album, there was an unscratched feeling that I wanted to explore more of.

This album peaks enough of an interest to go back for more; however, I would not call this album a flawless attempt at soulful music.

One of the things that Graves touches on is the smooth transitions between hard-hitting guitar solos and easy-riding lyrics. With the exception of three songs, each track has its own place on the album and distinguishable from the rest.

It’s easy for artists to make variations of the same song to make a quick buck. What I can appreciate about Graves is his tenacity to make things different and continue to carry on the musical genre.

A song that was a highlight on the album was track 5 “Take You For A Ride”.

The sound of a harmonica blares across the speakers. A guitar riff and hiss of a cymbal take you to a time where you’d be sitting with a cold beer and your friends by a campfire.

Graves’ music has something primal about it that you cannot shake.

However, he has a few dents in the armor. While the majority of his album seems original, there are two songs that smell of corporate tampering. Studios want songs that will sell; that’s how they get their profit. Too often do artists fall into this trap.

Track six “Fly Like A Dove” and track 10 “Heaven In Your Hands” would be two songs I would skip over on the car ride playlist. Though Graves is a talented guitar player, his singing to words so contrived is what kills me.

It was as if he was told that the album wouldn’t be put out unless he did these songs as a favor to the record label. What comes of that is songs that might play for a week on the radio but eventually fade into the realm of forgotten songs.

What Graves lacks in national footing he makes up for in potential.

The music scene has become stale over the past five years. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Steven Graves come across a station near you. 

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Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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