Rod Gilstrap’s acoustic country style blends well with his honest and often endearing approach to songwriting. Cavalier brings through a collection of clearly heartfelt, emotional and open songs that drive with the artist’s warm and accessible leading voice and the simple organic strum of a guitar.
Small Town Boy is undoubtedly one of the most memorable songs on the project, the details that emerge introduce the artist and his perspective in life in a pleasant way. Then you get the loving connection of As Long As You Like, a less personal but more intimately refined song directed at a significant other. Poetic references appear intermittently alongside of lines that offer promises and loyalty.
Is There Anyway feels a little more ballad-like than anything else – there’s a pop aura to the simplicity of the leading line and its questioning nature. The acoustic sound is notably minimal but still Gilstrap’s voice and the clear emotion within it hold the bar high. Feel like I was born to lose as a lyric is yet another example of how the songwriter holds nothing back when expressing the underlying sentiments within a track. He balances acceptance with hope in an easy to appreciate, relatable way.
The pace picks up for Little Lovin’, the country twang returns in both the instrumentation and the melodic development. The vocal harmonies during the hook sound beautiful and add further warmth and variation. Liquor Store Parking Lot follows and stands out for its story-telling and the clear imagery and scene setting presented during the verses. Another wonderful hook offers the perfect peak and keeps you captivated – this sort of song would likely go down brilliantly at a live show.
So Much To Lose is another somewhat familiarly structured ballad. The melodic rise and the resolve at the hook are effective in a classically pop-like manner – there’s comfort in what we recognize, yet Gilstrap adds his own spin on this by writing from a personal and always truthful perspective. Movin’ Day follows and lightens the mood, stepping away from the uncertainty of what came before. There’s a humble sense of colour and empowering optimism to this one that comes with a pleasant level of brightness.
There’s very little if anything to fault about the way this album has been recorded, produced and prepared. The sound is crisp and organic at every step – you can hear the live sound, you get the heartfelt vibes and you get to know the artist at the same time.
Abigail as a closing song is actually one of the most powerful from the whole project. The approach has more of a natural desperation to it, rather than simply something that would appeal to a wider audience. There’s a meeting between melancholy and possibility, and the lyrics are fascinating and beautiful – the story-line intrigues and the strings help give the concept strength and poignancy. A personal highlight and a gorgeous way to end the EP. It’s a song that’s disconnected from its audience in some respects, so you feel like a fly on the wall – listening in to something that is ultimately very real.
Cavalier is a fine collection and an easy must for fans of acoustic music in general – whether folk, country or pop. Stream the album on Spotify or click here. Find & follow Rod Gilstrap on Facebook & Instagram or visit his Website.