The Captain Ledge Band – Rumors of the Great White Skunk

The third album from the Oklahoma based Captain Ledge Band, Rumors of the Great White Skunk, is a ten song collection from the husband/wife team of bassist/vocalist Cliff Downing and his wife Jeana. Despite some time away from the music world, Cliff is a music lifer who cut his professional teeth touring large clubs with hair bands during the 1980’s until he left the road in 1988 for what we might call a more “normal” life.

Personal tragedy struck between 1988 and 2001 when Cliff shattered bones in his right wrist during a softball game and, during the recovery process, heard news that he was lucky to even been able to use his right hand, but playing bass again would be out of the question. His marriage to Jeana, however, changed all of that when she began playing mandolin and urged Cliff to try playing bass again. He adapted well and they soon drafted banjo player Jimmy Henley and Tony Adams to round out the band’s lineup.

Rumors of the Great White Skunk, as a title, reflects some of the inherent joy and playfulness coming across through their music. The opener I Wish has an entertainingly ramshackle quality, but it’s a bit of trick.

Captain Ledge Band clearly values a loose, spontaneous feel coupled with their instrumental skill and are talented at making the music sound loose and jammy – I Wish sounds like a first take, but the musicianship is high throughout. Cliff and Jeana trade off vocal lines with chemistry and their optimism shines through.

The album’s second track, Bucket Mouth, has a steady amble from the first that matches up well with the inherent bluesy gravitas in Jeana Downing’s voice. There’s a scattering of backing vocals supporting her efforts, but she carries the bulk of Bucket Mouth on her own and excels doing so.

Waiting on Angels has much of the same bluesy character with an additional smoky atmosphere lacking in the aforementioned tune. There’s some particularly compelling twists in the vocal melody making this track stand out from similar efforts and the same stripped down approach heard on earlier tracks commands your attention here.

There’s an appealing commercial edge present in the song In the Middle and its melodic strengths are further reinforced by the sensitive, emotive vocal. Cliff Downing’ voice excels at conveying emotional urgency.

The relaxed near-shuffle of I Remember is another high point on the release and Jeana Downing’s bright, lively singing plays the vocal melody just right. The musical accompaniment for the song is, likewise, just as sparkling and full of life.

Mimosa Tree has a nearly pastoral air with its big chords and languid pacing. The key to the song is, once again, the vocals and Jeana Downing matches up well with the musical backing. Rumors of the Great White Skunk is, easily, the best studio recording yet from the Captain Ledge Band and vividly reflects how well this husband and wife tandem work together.

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