Three years ago I moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia and what I was most excited to discover about my new home was how diverse the local music scene is. Halifax only has half a million people in it and some of my favourite concert venues obviously can’t compete with the likes of those in Toronto or Nashville or LA. Still though, the music scene has a lot to offer. Its (potentially) most prized possession – Ben Caplan – just released a new album that has been on repeat in my life ever since and it’s everything you could ever want it to be.
If you’ve ever seen a Ben Caplan show before you’ve probably heard a lot of these songs and you know how much of a treat each one is. Ben Caplan has a very specific sound. That being said, I don’t think I could ever put my finger on exactly what that sound is. It’s rugged and raspy and growling. He’s extremely poetic and charismatic and passionate, boy is he passionate. His new album, Birds with Broken Wings, proves all of the above.
The title track is rich with bizarre but genius lyrics (“give me poison I can swim in, water I can’t drink”) being delivered by Caplan’s howling voice and accompanied by creaky fiddles and quick percussion, not to mention the haunting and devilish “La da da da, la da da da” in the chorus.
The following track, I Got me a Woman, embodies the gypsy-folk sound that Ben does so well. Adding some banjo to the strings and percussion makes this, like much of his music, sound like it has been influenced by Tom Waits. Never has the voice reminiscent of a chain smoking whiskey drinker been so appealing.
The album makes sure to remind us of that it defies fitting into any one category with bluesy tracks like 40 Days & 40 Nights and Ride On and even some jazz-type sounds in Deliver Me. My personal favourite, A Night Like Tonight, is filled with beautiful violin, piano and a more relaxed Caplan voice. This is as close as we’re going to get to a Ben Caplan love song, but it’s pretty much perfect.
The album closes with more piano and a ballad, Lovers Waltz, to once again show us how diverse this bearded wonder is. The LP sends listeners on a musical adventure that peaks into too many genres to even count. I image that this is exactly what Ben set out to do when creating it – to point out how absurd but beautiful life (and in this case, music) can be.