A ringing attribute of Jim Willingham’s songwriting is that it manages to be both exuberant and high-minded -- inviting and literate -- all at once. Combining the terse acoustic propulsion of the late-model Feelies with the breezy, half-stoned-on-the-beach pop-ambiance of Dean Wareham’s Luna, Willingham nevertheless brings a distinctive Athenian warmth to his Captain’s Table. It figures: there are horn-charts and string-sections, burst veins of Link Wray-ish guitarplay, pastoral keyboard-drones, tremulous bits of Hawaiian slack-key guitar and some country-fried saunter up under the rhythm section. Chiefly, though, there’s that friendly storytelling voice -- half-sung, half-spoken – escorting you through the broken waltzes, atmospheric ballads and jittery rockers, all.
For his first Orange Twin release, Willingham capitalizes on his longstanding musical relationship with a pair of veteran Elephant Six luminaries; former Olivia Tremor Control members, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Eric Harris and keyboardist Pete Erchick, make key textural and compositional contributions to the new disk. Rounding out the idiosyncratic lineup are Athens fixtures Jacob Morris and Chris Sugiuchi on cello and trombone, respectively; acclaimed local songstress Liz Durrett, whom the band often backs on stage, lends her rich vocal harmony to two tracks.
A solid couple years of playing around the south have shorn up the group’s ensemble sound, and “The Captain’s Table” is strong proof; the group’s intricate instrumental chemistry frames the record perfectly, coalescing Willingham’s sprawling vision into a unified artistic whole -- this is no loose collection of songwriter-plus-band musings. Producer Andy Baker’s shimmering, vibrant patina serves each song with minimal intrusion; there’s an airy, informal atmosphere to the album that makes for rewarding repeated listening: you can choose to skate along the brilliantly crystalline surface of each song or dive full-bore into Willingham’s weird and beautiful lyrical world.
1. Clown-Shoed Feet
2. Hare Lipped Bust
4. White Rat
6. I had a good Idea, but it passed my mind
7. How can you watch TV with a dead person?
9. Hubcap Frisbees
10. Another Flipped lid Pt 2
11. The Captain's Table