Singer-songwriter Annie Capps is heir to the long history of folk music as a medium for social commentary. At the same time, she is clearly a folksinger for the twenty-first century, using her art to explore the psychology of the individual, to engage in a little fret therapy. Most of Capps’s songs are written in the first person, with introspective lyrics about trying to make sense of being a woman, a grown-up, a person with doubts and fears and desires. As you might expect, her strongest moments are when her inner revelations speak clearly to ours.
On the opening track of her latest CD, Not So Sure, Capps asks, “So are these eggshells I’m walking on, or is this air?” Another catchy lyric, from the song “Tracks,” observes, “I’ve got a real bad habit of talking me down, and I’ve got way too much to say.”
Capps writes dependable three-and-a-half-minute songs with comfortable phrasing, catchy choruses, and not too much excitement. She sings them in a lovely, uncomplicated voice, and has a cute way of scrunching up her nose when she performs that makes her easy to like. Her quiet musical style sets her apart from the Lilith Fair-type “grrrls,” while her tough vulnerability is still in keeping with Chrissie Hynde’s prettier pieces.
Musically, Annie Capps owes much to her husband and longtime collaborator, Rod Capps. Rod is a silent partner on stage, letting the guitar do all his communicating, but he always adds the right silky jazz lines, blues undertones, or southern rock feel to Annie’s compositions and simpler rhythm-guitar chops. Every time the singing is replaced by one of his guitar solos, he makes the whole song feel more fluid, less mechanical.
Annie’s live performances also benefit from the percussion and vocal work of Christine Schinker. Schinker’s easy rhythm on hand drums fills in the empty spaces unobtrusively. But her most valuable contribution is her voice — she has a great ear for warm harmonies and blends her own bright and clear tone beautifully with Capps’s.
For all her efforts to get you thinking, Capps also knows how to poke fun at her own genre — and at the sometimes painful life in a working band at local bars and parties. The wryly titled “Cerebral,” though a bit of a novelty tune, may be the highlight of the CD: “Don’t try appealing to my sensitive side / Don’t try to raise up my unconsciousness . . . ‘Cause I just came here to have a beer. . . . I just came here to have a drink / And I don’t wanna have to think.”
Annie Capps is at Crazy Wisdom on Saturday, August 30.