Wednesday, March 6, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1717: Trapper Schoepp

Today was an interesting day, as I took an hour away from work to join Sheila for…a fashion shoot. I was even the model. It was great fun and even musically relevant (I call my style ‘aging rock star’). Now on to the music itself!

Disc 1717 is…Siren Songs

Artist: Trapper Schoepp

Year of Release: 2023

What’s up with the Cover? Trapper Schoepp walks on water. Er…sits on water? Is Trapper the magic here or is it the stool?

Maybe this cover is suggesting Schoepp is playing some siren songs, but instead of luring sailors to their deaths he’s luring trout fisherman to spending an afternoon with wet shoes and socks.

How I Came To Know It: I have been a Trapper Schoepp fan since I saw him in 2017 at the Commodore. I haven’t loved everything he puts out but the album I like, I like a lot.

How It Stacks Up: Trapper Schoepp has released six albums, but I only have three of them. Here’s how they all stack up.

  1. Siren Songs: 4 stars (reviewed right here)
  2. Rangers & Valentines: 4 stars (reviewed at Disc 1052)
  3. Run, Engine, Run: 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 1202)

Rating: 4 stars

This is the first Trapper Schoepp album I’ve bought in over seven years, and whatever magic was missing for me on the three records I skipped over in that interlude, has been found and then some on “Siren Songs”. This is Schoepp’s best work since 2016’s “Rangers & Valentines,” revealing a maturing artist who has found nuance in his songwriting without sacrificing any of the youthful exuberance that mark his earlier work.

I discovered Schoepp in 2017 when he opened for Frank Turner at a show in Vancouver, and I was immediately impressed with his energy and natural talent for songwriting. Schoepp has since learned a lot of Frank’s tricks, notably his ability to take the exuberance of good old rock and roll and mix it with traditional Celtic folk structures.

Many of the songs on this record have that rollicking beat of Celtic beat, and lots of variations of 1-4-5 chord progressions of that style, blended with rock and roll and his own Wisconsin charm to create something that is both familiar and invigorating.

Schoepp also adds all manner of Celtic-friendly instruments to support this vibe, including mandolin, tin whistle, accordion, fiddle and (I think) even a bodhran, although the record just lists drums and the eternally vague “percussion”.

These songs made me wish I was a-sea with a hearty crew on a ship-of-the-line. Yes, this is in part because I’m reading one of Patrick O’Brien’s “Master and Commander” novels, but it is more than that. These songs are decidedly sea-shanty friendly, with a natural heave-to, and choruses that will encourage you to sing along.

The production on the record is just as I like it, honouring the mid-range in the mix and letting each instrument shine equally. Schoepp’s vocals have a lot of tight harmony that had me thinking favourably of Canadian band Grapes of Wrath. The effect creates a sense of belonging to the song. Listening, I felt like a member of the band, participating in each song’s story rather than sitting on the sideline. It left me all warm and fuzzy inside.

There are some cases where the songs don’t have a lot of complexity, and Schoepp compensates for this with adjusting the arrangement as he goes, throwing in a piano bit for the latter third or somesuch to keep your ear interested. I caught him at this stuff a couple of times, but it didn’t bother me because while these songs may not engage in composition gymnastics they are so fun you won’t mind.

I’d also like to reflect ‘ere I part, on what a quality dude Trapper Schoepp is. At his concerts he attends the merch table and engages fans in real conversation. I ordered this album from Bandcamp, and along with it Schoepp sent me a pin and a handwritten postcard saying hello, and some kind words about Canada. He’s a class act.

He’s also made his best record ever, and one that will be on regular rotation in my collection for many years to come.

Best tracks: Secrets of the Breeze, Good Graces, The Fool, Eliza, Diocese, In Returning

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