Captain Highside – Season By Season – EP Review
I really dig people like good ol’ Captain Highside right here. Being rooted in the independent music-scene is such a wonderful thing y’all…truly…rather than simply run into established artists & bands all the time, in doing what we’ve been doing here for nearly a decade now, I’ve had the pleasure of running into people from all walks of life. Sure we have our regulars and veterans of the scene as well of course, but I’m talking about what a genuine privilege it is to cross paths with people like Captain Highside, who are givin’ it all a shot & humbly seeing what it is they can really do. More often than not, the results are inspiring when this happens…this is that moment where people can suddenly discover they were cut out for a second career, or end up with a complete switch in the direction of their life, one way or the other.
In the case of Captain Highside here – check this quote out for yourself, and you’ll get an idea of what it is I’m talkin’ about: “My main job is as a training physician in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, but living in Nashville and playing instruments and being around music all my life, I couldn’t help but make it.” I have reviewed a whole lotta music in this lifetime of mine y’all…and there’s not a time I can recall where I can remember it being made by a “training physician in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.” This isn’t where I tend to shy away or get nervous about what I’d be listening to – it’s the exact opposite effect – it’s commentary like this from Captain Highside that gets me curious & WANTING to push play!
Because no joke folks…it’s moments like when I hear the vocals start up on the opening track, “Madness Rising,” that get me outta bed in the morning…or whatever time it happens to be…you get the point – I EXIST to find artists just like Captain Highside that have been hiding their talents away for far too long. This dude can SING y’all! I have no idea what life is like in the medical field aside from assuming it’s pretty stressful…but if Captain Highside is around to add a little soul to the pediatric & oncology wards, all I’m sayin’ is that’s gotta make every single day at least a bit better for everyone, right? I love the sound of this guy’s voice – and he’s got a great opening tune with “Madness Rising” that’s very much like a low-key Zero 7-esque groove from their earlier records. Vocally, Captain Highside isn’t afraid whatsoever to go BIG – and I am HERE FOR IT. Truthfully, if I’m being 100% real with ya, I can tell that he’s got even MORE in the tank that time & experience will continually draw out of him – but if this guy was to walk out on stage on one of those talent shows we all watch on TV, he’d have the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, I can practically guarantee it. In fact, I’ll be WATCHING for it in the future, because I’m tellin’ ya Captain Highside, not only would you blow the judges away with the voice you’ve got, every single one of’em would be just as into the story of how a training physician ends up making music. Whatever has led the man to what he’s doing here, I’m thankful for it – “Madness Rising” is an incredibly smooth, subtle, stylistic & soulful song with real substance to it…it’s not so much about any kind of flashy hooks, but you will find that there’s a very memorable performance & song overall at work here. I’m scratching my head as to what I would advise this guy to do any better considering he’s not making music full-time & all…honestly, I feel like artists & bands that have been in the scene for years already would be seriously proud to come out with the results you’ll hear on this track from Captain Highside. He’s got the vibe, he’s got the talent…and the more he flexes this artistic muscle, the stronger he’ll get.
I’m tellin’ ya…I’m continually impressed by how much confidence, clarity, and tone that Captain Highside can get into his vocals…above all things, that’s outright flooring me. So many times you hear someone step up to the microphone for those first times, and it’s missing that energy & spark you need – conviction in the performance, you feel me? Captain Highside has got that goin’ on no problemo y’all – mind you…it’s also not technically his first time up to bat though either. I can find songs that stretch back to about 2013, and a couple records in between then & now as well – so don’t let him fool ya, he has had some practice in making the magic happen, and clearly we can hear the results of his efforts. For this particular record, you could consider cuts like “Winter Breakdown” either R&B or Soul…and the actual reality could even be what you’d label Adult Contemporary as well…which may or may-not be what the Captain is going for, but he’ll have to decide that – I’m just tellin’ ya what I hear. Adult Contemporary ain’t a BAD genre to be a part of…but it IS a style of music that can be very hard to get fully excited about based on its pace & tempo & the delicate grooves that tend to come along with it. So for me, I listen to a song like “Winter Breakdown,” and I like what I hear – but largely because the man himself IS the hook – you follow me? Listening to this guy sing is such a pleasure that if he pulled out the phonebook I’d happily sit down and be there until he reached Z. Featuring Skip Jones along with him for the first of two times on this EP as well, “Winter Breakdown” is a good tune…truthfully, I’ve got no major objections. I think there’s still plenty of room for Captain Highside to dial in on what makes a song itself memorable in terms of the writing & melody that make a hook unforgettable, but I also don’t think every single track needs to have all that either. The concern overall in this particular situation, would be that Captain Highside has got a fairly low-key & mellow set of five here designed in a similar way when it comes to all this – no matter the song, his voice becomes the most memorable part of what we hear. He’s definitely going to make an impact on people listening…I don’t think he could help it with the voice that he has quite honestly…but writing-wise, there’s more he can supply as a reason to return.
In the case of a cut like “Marching On” – during the first verse, I felt like I was going to feel pretty much the same way as I did with “Winter Breakdown” more or less…Captain Highside’s vocal talent remains the hook. All-in-all, I could feel that the twists & turns of the melody & how he sings this particular tune might lead to a bit of confusion for the ears listening out there. In some respects, that generates uniqueness…and ultimately, there’s always value in that too – but I look at it like this…if Captain Highside was to be a bit more selective as to when he chooses to throw the switch and go for those big notes, listeners will be able to wrap their heads around it all with more success. For example…as “Marching On” begins, you get some of the Captain’s biggest notes & he’s sounding spectacular as ever – and then he’ll dive into an anti-chorus in terms of the song’s energy, dialing it back where you’d expect him to ramp it up even further. That being said – I’m cool with moves like that…I’ve run into those before, and that can be a really effective tool in songwriting, don’t get me wrong. For me, it was more to do with what came after that first verse & chorus that felt like it meandered a little too far away from a tangible structure that the masses could easily follow along with. We’re all listening for that rise & fall, and the dynamics of the song itself to reveal themselves…and it’s somewhat harder to get to as a result of a few of the choices being made by the Captain as to how to sing what & when – make sense? Love the guitar and the backing vocals in this tune…and all-around, I dig the sound as well…if we’re talking about a block of music that I’d find enjoyable to listen to, this still qualifies for sure. I’d watch a few of those low-end notes & bass-tones ringing out a little too long in the mix perhaps, but other than that, there’s still a lot of solid ideas to work with here, and an even better tale of resilience in the lyricism.
When you’re goin’ big for the most part, it simply gets tougher to discern the difference between a verse & a chorus is all…I’d experiment with that a bit more if I was Captain Highside. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the guy can hit a HUGE note – and it’s impressive…to the point where we’d all universally agree on that – but there is a bit more to dynamics that merely power & projection. “Sweet Fever Dream” gets a bit more mellow in the mix in that regard in comparison to some of the others, but yeah…I wouldn’t be afraid to still go softer than he is at points too if I was Captain Highside, if only to make his biggest moments stand out even more as they should – make sense? That being said…I can very much get behind the idea of listening to this guy sing, whether or not you feel like it’s a verse/chorus/verse fully defined, or just one big moment in time – he’s got some absolutely jaw-dropping highlights on “Sweet Fever Dream” and I’d never sell the man short on that. There’s an old-school soul at work in the way this track is written…right back to the 50s/60s at its core when it comes right down to it…and it’s a suit that Captain Highside wears really well. Like…if you were to pass by this dude singing on the corner of a city street, you’d stop and start doling out the dollars immediately…he’s got a very natural & grounded way about him, even though he sings like a superhuman. Joined once again by Skip Jones as the featured guest-star…”Sweet Fever Dream” does feel a bit like another stream of consciousness come to life somewhat…but I suspect people will really dig on the laid-back vibe here. In addition to that – we can all agree that the guitar in this track practically steals the show in the solo with the technique & tone you find there, right? Paired with some of Captain Highside’s highest notes later on as the track plays on…personally, I love tunes like this where the interactive nature in the way the vocals and music work together, and react to each other. “Sweet Fever Dream” isn’t the kind of cut that’s gonna punch you in the face for your attention, but there’s a good chance it’ll earn it from the sheer dose of enticing sound at work & the audible soul you’ll find in this song, and keep it retained through naturally sparkling vibes.
I think it really just comes down to the strength of the material itself – Captain Highside has all the talent he needs to succeed, and a world-class set of pipes when it comes to his singing voice…he’ll eventually tap right into more memorable moments to work with as time goes on. Because HE…is unforgettable – that’s not even an opinion, that’s a fact – I’ll remember the name Captain Highside for years & years after writing this review here…that’s the real impression and true impact he makes with his voice alone. The songs…they’re good – they just don’t quite have a remote chance of standing out as much as the man himself does right now…you can blame me if you like, or you can fault the Captain for singing the living daylights outta this set of songs – I’m sure we’re both cool with either choice you make. He’s got a very expressive approach to his vocals – and you’ll get one more highlight in that regard as he sings “How?” for the finale of Season By Season. I love the shimmering shine of the guitars in this tune, and I think “How?” can be brilliantly mesmerizing & straight-up hypnotic at times as well…as with every song on this EP, there are many flashes of something incredibly special happening that just require a bit more of a defining moment to be that ultimate, memorable highlight that burns the title into our minds. Performance-wise, Captain Highside is a verifiable force to be reckoned with on the mic and he’s proven that on every single song throughout this EP…it’s hard to conceive of a world that wouldn’t still respond extremely favorably to what he’s doing now, even if he does reveal the potential for more in his music to exist. Stay the course Captain…you’re definitely on the right path…your talent is your north star – let it guide you to victory through time & experience in your travels – your best is certainly still yet to come, and I hear every reason to be stoked about the future ahead with the genuinely amazing voice you have.
Find out more about Captain Highside at his official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CaptainHighside
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