At this point in his burgeoning career, it might be easy for alt-country artist Garrett T. Capps to settle into being the "I Love San Antone" Guy.
After all, many folks' introduction to the Alamo City-based singer-songwriter was through tunes that extol the virtues his hometown while channeling the infectious sounds of some of its finest musical exports, notably the late Doug Sahm.
Fortunately, the new album People Are Beautiful (Spaceflight Records) by Capps and his cosmically inclined band NASA Country is yet more proof that he's not so easy to pigeonhole.
The eight-song release is the final installment of Capps' Shadows Trilogy, in which he takes Texas' cosmic cowboy mantel literally by layering elements of space rock and ambient music underneath the twang.
Written during the early days of the pandemic and recorded a few months after, there's plenty of soul searching in the lyrics, which the kaleidoscopic musical approach helps amplify. Even on the more straight-ahead numbers, the wavery steel guitar and electronic treatments lend a shimmering ambiance, as if Brian Eno decided to move to Nashville instead of composing music for airports.
Credit Justin Boyd on modular synthesizer, Torin Metz on guitar lap steel and vocals, odie on bass and vocals, and Kory Cook on percussion for being able to add an experimental bent to the proceedings without losing sight of the songs' honkytonk heart.
Only on the mid-album track "Time Will Tell" does the music fully turn away from its classic country roots into something approaching Krautrock — think Neu! — while the extended outro of "Time Will Tell" chugs along into Hawkwind territory.
Aside from a couple of clunky moon-spoon rhyming schemes early in the album, Capps shows himself to be an adept lyricist, opening up about his own failings, fears and insecurities while looking for hope around the corner. "Stay cool, it's gettin' better / Just gotta hold it all together," he urges the listener in "Gettin' Better," the album's two-step ready opener.
In the title track, Capps' rapid-fire vocals tick off a list of things that make people infuriating before flipping things around at the chorus in an apparent reminder that our incongruities are what make us human. "Our love is irrefutable / Cosmically inscrutable / Certain facts are immutable / But people are beautiful."
It's easy to see how the uncertainty of early 2020 was wearing on Capps when he was writing People Are Beautiful. While largely upbeat, the album doesn't flinch from observing the darkness all around. Capps' authentic and always-easy delivery also keeps it miles away from self-help book territory.
The world can be an ugly place, and sometimes we need a cosmic messenger to remind us not to let it get us down.
People Are Beautiful is available now on CD and vinyl or via digital download.
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