Tuesday, November 20, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1202: Trapper Schoepp

I’m feeling pretty tired this evening, but I am also ready to move on to my next album. Since that doesn’t happen until I talk about the one I’m on, here we go...

Disc 1202 is… Run, Engine, Run
Artist: Trapper Schoepp and the Shades

Year of Release: 2012

What’s up with the Cover? Trapper Schoepp does his best Han Solo. The vest is a bit too big, and he’s too short to pretend to be a Stormtrooper, but otherwise he’s a handsome kid who looks like he can shoot from the hip – and do it first. I don’t know those other guys, but they look like rebels. They’re all a bit…shady.

How I Came To Know It: I bought this from Trapper Schoepp himself at the Commodore Ballroom a couple of years ago where he was manning his merch table. I also had a nice conversation with Schoepp who is a personable young fellow with a twinkle in his eye.

How It Stacks Up:  I have two Trapper Schoepp albums. I like them both, but “Run, Engine, Run” is going in at #2 behind 2016’s “Rangers & Valentines”

Ratings:  3 stars but almost 4

“Run, Engine, Run” has some pretty melodies and some solid playing and while it may not invite you into life’s deeper mysteries or re-invent the folk-rock genre where it abides, sometimes a pretty melody is enough.

Schoepp has a knack for a catchy hook, and “Run, Engine, Run” has plenty to offer. These are songs that sometimes sway and sometimes kick, but they always do it in a way that makes you want to join in. Schoepp writes short songs (most are under four minutes) that develop quickly. Sometimes it happens a bit too quickly, giving the experience an ‘empty calories’ feeling, but for the most part Schoepp has a natural talent for storytelling. It is hard to blame his efficiency or economy of purpose when the destination is so enjoyable. In short, he gets to the point, and a lot of moany, meandering folk singers could learn from his straightforward style.

Schoepp has a solid voice that sounds youthful (which he is) and exuberant (which he also is). The Shades are a solid backing band, and there were some guitar licks that had a rich tone to them. I don’t know who they belong to though; there are three band members credited with “guitar” and the only time I’ve seen Schoepp in concert he was a one-man act, so the arrangements were all stripped down to just vocals and one guitar (his).

Many of the songs have heavy themes of travel and show that Schoepp is well acquainted with the road. The best of these is the title track, which is about Schoepp’s memory as a 16 year old riding with his grandfather in a red Mercedes. If I remember from his concert, grandpa eventually gave the car to Schoepp, which is pretty cool. The song has a galloping guitar that makes it fittingly perfect driving music and Trapper sings the song with a veritas that speaks to how significant the moment was for him.

I also liked the touches of fiddle on “Run, Engine, Run” which also make an appearance on the opening track “So Long.” I liked the fiddle so much I wanted to hear more of it than the album offered so I looked the player up. Turns out it is Gina Romantini. I look forward to hearing more of her work…er…down the road?

When the album is folksy, it tells small stories that are unpretentious and sincere. When it rocks out, it makes you want to drive fast and go looking for adventure down some Midwestern backroad. I’m currently between cars, and “Run, Engine, Run” made me wish I had a fast one. Who am I kidding, though? Everything makes me wish I had a fast car. Damned midlife crisis.

The songs on this record didn’t stand out quite as strongly as Schoepp’s more recent “Rangers & Valentines” but that is a tough comparison. Regardless, “Run, Engine, Run” is consistently good and for a debut record it shows Schoepp’s ear for good production and his talent for songwriting. While the songs don’t always develop in creative new ways they do have that timeless quality which belies good bones. Timeless is hard to achieve, but Schoepp has done it here, and I think this record will age very well over the years.

Best tracks: So Long, Wishing Well, Tracks, Run Engine Run

No comments: