Capon Crusade opens like a come-on in a bar. Pleasant, plaintive notes have you at ease while an unsettling sense of something rougher is growing louder with the guitar distortion.
It's a fitting opening for what follows -- tales of drunken debauchery, heartbreak and existential crisis, packaged in rock that wavers between country and Americana. Maybe even more fitting is how well the record captures The Yawpers' live sound and energy, something the Savage Blue EP didn't manage to do. It's music best suited for the kind of nights that inspired it.
The sound is fuller this time around, too, with the addition of Dave Romano on harmonica. It's also worth noting new drummer James Hale, too, since it mostly falls to his drums to fill in for the band's lack of bass player. But “lack” suggests there's something missing, and you'd never miss the sound of bass guitar. Guitarist Jesse Parmet will keep your ears busy with complex melodies and blazing solos, and frontman Nate Cook's rhythm guitar is hitting enough of the bottom string to round out the sound.
“Garbage Man” might be the track that best represents The Yawpers and why Capon Crusade succeeds. Cook's got the kind of voice that sounds like something pure turned rough by whiskey and cigarettes, and he gets to shine both in moments of a cappella crooning and anguished shouting. And for a record that's packed with so much live energy, it doesn't forgo good production. Every hit to a drum punches, and the guitar riffs cut through, never competing or getting muddled.
One of the things that keeps The Yawpers interesting is the fluctuations in tempo, volume and mood within each song, and they've made that translate across the entire album. The contrast between depressed slow burners like “Darkening Doors” and raunchy story-tellers like “Bartleby The Womanizer” (a stand-out track, especially for Hale) is a testament to Cook's songwriting chops.
If you're a fan of the live show, the last three tracks on the album will be familiar favorites. And here's where the disclaimer comes in: I'm a fan of the live show. That in mind, I listened extra closely for flaws, but still came away thinking The Yawpers could be the next big thing out of Boulder. And I can drink to that.
*The Yawpers were recently at our Second Story Garage for a performance and an interview. Check it out at secondstorygarage.com.