Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers

I’m an unapologetic Tom Waits fanatic. Everything about the man - from his music, to his persona, and even his eye for photos - just strikes a chord with me, so much that hearing anyone with a gruff voice described as Waits-y or some hybrid thereof (the ole whiskey worn or gargling glass voice) turns me off an artist before I even hear them. I usually turn to the terrific line from Matt Arbogast of The Gunshy, “this fucker sounds just like Tom Waits, Do we need another Tom Waits?

The thing is, Waits trademark voice is only part of the equation. The music that accompanies his gruff delivery is of equal importance. That’s why when you find an artist talented enough to deserve the comparison - like Halifax resident Ben Caplan - you start to look past the powerful voice and fixate on the notes that accompany it.

Caplan and his talented band - The Casual Smokers - will undoubtedly garner review after review build around on his voice, but even when they deliver the roughest of bar room stomps, there is a surprising depth and musicianship to the songs. Stand up bass, classical trained strings (violin and cello), flute, sax and terrific use of call and response sing-along choruses all help Caplan and the Casual Smokers stand out from the masses influenced by the same sounds.

They recorded a few songs in The Chapel at the University of King’s College in Halifax and mixed them the next day. Considering the tight time lines, the result - three songs: Conduit, Beautiful and Stranger - capture the energy of the band and show the potential of the upcoming full length they have slated for later in the year. The five minute Stranger finds the band moving at a restrained pace, heightening the tension before Caplan’s voice explodes and dares the strings and flute to balance the effort. Beautiful shows what happens when Caplan opts for a smoother, more melodic delivery and shows the band is more than a one trick pony.

I know it’s hard to judge a band on a recording session that was turned out for grants in less than 48 hours, but the interesting dichotomy works and this new band is the type of discovery that keeps us blogging. For those lucky readers here in Halifax, Ben and his band of noise makers are ready to tear up the tiny Company House stage on Friday night. I’d highly recommend showing up.

MP3:: Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers - Stranger



This entry was posted on Thursday, March 4th, 2010 at 8:59 am and is filed under Ben Caplan, Halifax, Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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One Response to “Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers”

Anonymous March 4th, 2010 at 11:13 am

Yeah, definitely sounds like Waits. Musically — a bit like Tiger Lillies too. — David D. Robbins Jr., Their Bated Breath music blog.

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