Lucinda Black Bear | ‘Capo My Heart’ and Other Bear Songs (Eastern Spurs)

cd_lucinda.jpgThere’s something about hearing a male voice reaching for that challenging, octave-stretching high note—and nailing it—that is utterly sublime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love falsetto vocals. Friggin’ love ’em! There’s something about hearing a male voice reaching for that challenging, octave-stretching high note—and nailing it—that is utterly sublime. Whether it’s Brian Wilson, Neil Young or Chris Martin (or Bono, for gosh sakes), a good falsetto can reel me right into whatever song I’m listening to.

So Lucinda Black Bear had me at the "hello" of the opening track on their debut album ‘Capo My Heart’ and Other Bear Songs. The song in question, "Kites," finds singer/guitarist/keyboardist Christian Gibbs soaring to a wonderful "high" on the verses perfectly, blissfully. And it gets this album off to a gripping start indeed.

Lucinda Black Bear is anchored by the voice and tuneful compositions of Gibbs (an acclaimed Brooklyn songwriter best known for his prior work Parade of Small Horses), with worthy accompaniment by other Brooklynites, including bassist Mike Cohen (Soft Explosions, Killer Elite), drummer Kristin Mueller and cellist Chad Hammer. Gibbs has a pleasing, emotive voice, and his piano playing is bright and fluid. After that fine opening track, the pleasure continues: "All She Wanted" features ear-friendly finger picking, gorgeous harmony vocals and unexpected Beatle-ish orchestral interludes. It’s a wonderful example of modern folk-rock, with the sort of lilt that’ll make you smile.

The titular "Capo My Heart" is a solemn piano and guitar ballad that truly has "classic" stamped on it. Between the grabber of a melody, the tasteful chords and Gibbs’ immaculate delivery, this song ascends to a level of sheer craftsmanship that will make you recall the best melodic pop music of the ’60s and ’70s. With "Winterland," you get a nice jangly rocker that again finds Gibbs favoring the higher registers, with the harmonies and stirring tempo supporting him all the way. "Noon Day Sun" and "Give U Nothin’" vary the flow with rather eccentric arrangements; the offbeat vocals and percussion of that latter track, in particular, show that Gibbs isn’t content to settle for the lowest common denominator. He’s reaching, exploring—trying to find the musical sounds that best represent his thoughtful musings about life and love.

And he doesn’t overload his songs: "Here I Am" features mostly straightforward lyrics ("I’ll be your pleasure/ I’ll be your pain/ I’m the desire that never wanes…"), but it’s such a beautifully compact song, with warm plunky piano and a flawless arrangement, that you feel grateful for the tastefulness Gibbs shows at every turn (he also produced).

And what to make of the concluding "Hibernation Song (Blue it Got You)," a peculiar little cello-laden ambient instrumental that ebbs and flows, signaling all sorts of additional possibilities for Gibbs’ active muse? Not sure, but it tops off a beautifully paced recording in surprising style. Gibbs seems to be rather intuitive in his musical choices, and he’s come up with a real winner here. Capo is a Bear-y fine album, the kind you can enjoy from start to finish and look forward to playing again and again. B+ | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Elliott Smith, Nick Cave, Neil Young

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