Ben Caplan – Old Stock (independent)
Ben Caplan is a big presence. Big man, big voice, big ideas. Larger than life, this fellow. Which makes his transition to musical theatre entirely sensible. His third collection of songs, Old Stock, was adapted into an off-Broadway production, with playwright Hannah Moscovitch, that became a critic’s pick, a sensation at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and garnered six nominations for the same New York prize that helped launch Come From Away.
The story of two Romanian refugees arriving in Canada in 1908, Old Stock has proven to be incredibly topical: the album was released the same week the Trump administration endorsed the forcible removal of children from their asylum-seeking parents along the Mexican border. The album opens with “The Traveller’s Curse”—written by kindred spirit and fellow politically minded klezmer fan Geoff Berner—a song that opens with the lines: “I have been libelled as a wanderer / This is not the case / I have a home, it's just that it's an inconvenient place right now.” But the intent of these songs are not to be necessarily current commentary nor trapped in a historical narrative; they’re simply Caplan and Moscovitch riffing on a theme.
There are some tracks here that work better on the stage than they do for repeated listening—and not just the two “intermezzos.” But that’s true of Caplan’s work in general: this man was born to be on a stage, not necessarily in a recording studio that can barely begin to capture his charisma. Go see him at the nearest opportunity. (June 22)
Stream: “The Traveller’s Curse,” “Truth Doesn’t Live in a Book,” “Lullaby”