Captain Ledge releases LP


Outsider music, a sort of kitschy label that I’ve never been particularly fond of when it comes to describing left field recording artists and their dabbling in the avant-garde, has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance this summer. New strains of rappers who are more influenced by acapella and swing music are beginning to garner a lot of attention; country artists who have an appreciation for jangle rocking, alternative 80s bands like The Replacements are starting to get their footing in Nashville; and as crazy as it would sound to a much younger me, I actually heard a Daniel Johnston song in a commercial the other day on television. I don’t know who grabbed hold of the steering wheel in the pop culture control room, but I’m loving what is transpiring right now before my ears. In this movement, one particular pair of songwriters has struck me as being worthy of significant notation when we’re discussing bands that are making a bigger impact than what the industry would expect them to have, and that band is Midwestern folk syndicate The Captain Ledge Band.

Captain Ledge consists primarily of married couple Cliff and Jeana Downing, who on their own and collectively have plenty of experience expressing themselves through the illustrious medium that is recorded music, and neither one stifles their influences in favor making a compromised record in their new album Rumors of the Great White Skunk. While thoroughly a minimalist exhibition in the melding of bluegrass, folk and the western half of country/western music, there isn’t a specific term that I really want to use to brand their particular style of play. I can’t feel good about calling them a country band because they’re not formulaic or repetitious like the Nashville groups. They lack the pretentiousness of modern, hipster owned folk music, and their total embrace of haunting melody that leans heavily on dry tones is a bit rejectionist when you think about the typical structure of a bluegrass song. This is some of the most indie music I’ve heard all year, and even calling it an indie record feels suffocating and limiting in the wider scope of their talents.

If you can listen to songs like “Simple Things,” the lingering “I Love You” and the completely and utterly jarring “I Wish,” (my choice for a lead single from Rumors) and not take away a diverse set of emotions and themes, then I don’t know that we’re listening to the same record. Captain Ledge takes us to the very brink of inaccessibility but never crosses the line, and their bold willingness to break the rules and try different things isn’t just intoxicating and easy to get into, it’s straight up infectious and impossible to resist. I think to adequately get an idea about the persona of this group with any sense of justice, listening to Rumors of the Great White Skunk is the first place that any music fan should start. I recommend anyone with an abundant capacity for experimentalism give them a listen – I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

Sebastian Cole