By Nick Cristiano
Two numbers into his third album, Capricorn, after delivering the greasy slab of swamp-funk that is “Yella Alligator,” Eddie 9V says to his band mates: “We’re tracking in history right now, y’all.” What the singer-guitarist is referring to is this: The musicians were cutting at Capricorn Sound Studios (hence the album title), the storied Macon, Ga., site that spawned Southern rock with bands such as the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, and Wet Willie and for a while rivaled Memphis and Muscle Shoals as Southern meccas for roots musicians.
Eddie 9V likes to record live. For his 2020 debut, Left My Soul in Memphis, he rolled tape in his mobile home with his brother, producer, and co-writer, Lane Kelly. Like 2021’s Little Black Flies, made in Eddie 9V’s native Atlanta, most of Capricorn was recorded live in the studio with the same core group of musicians: Kelly on bass, guitarist Cody Matlock, keyboardist Chad Mason, and drummer Aaron Hambrick. (Eddie 9V also plays bass on five tracks and drums on six.) That gives the performances a thrilling immediacy that helps them echo the freewheeling spirit of the greats who thrived inside those studio walls.
The album opens with a relentless one-two-three punch: The hard-driving R&B of “Beg, Borrow and Steal” into “Yella Alligator” and then a red-hot version of “’Bout to Make Me Leave Home,” the R&B chestnut most famously covered by Bonnie Raitt. (It’s one of three non-originals on the 11-song set. The others are a storming roadhouse take on Dylan’s “Down Along the Cove” and the gospel standard “Mary Don’t You Weep” by an uncredited female vocal group.)
Eddie 9V and his mates know how to get the sparks flying, the guitars, drums, horns and keyboards making a roof-raising ruckus. But they are equally adept when on the hangdog “It’s Going Down” (“I always lose what I have”), they lower the volume and add some acoustic textures, as well as a muted sax solo that beautifully heightens the melancholy mood.
Capricorn also makes clear that Eddie 9V, still in his mid-20s, is as much soul man as bluesman. “Are We Through?” trades in sweaty intensity for smooth balladeering, with his voice glides up into falsetto. The falsetto returns on the set-closing “I’m Lonely,” enhancing the longing at the heart of the song, while on the equally downbeat “Missouri,” he pointedly makes the title sound like “Misery.” On “Trying to Get By,” he evokes classic soul man anguish with a song whose undeniable propulsiveness and rock-solid hook make it sound like a long-lost hit.
In fact, with his gritty and emotive delivery throughout, Eddie 9V at times recalls “the white Otis Redding” – the great Muscle Shoals session guitarist and solo artist Eddie Hinton. Redding himself, of course, was from Macon, though he made his name in Memphis. It speaks to the richness of Eddie 9V’s achievement that his performances not only mark him as a standout in his own right but also, in a roundabout way, extend the legacy of not just one but two Macon music institutions.
Pre-order link for Capricorn Here