Draw It In Chalk

Still on an indefinite hiatus, Captain Kennedy release an album's worth of archived material

When Captain Kennedy released their debut album, See You When I See You, at the tail end of 2010, the future looked bright for the seven-piece band. A great critical response to an album of folk-tinged Americana, married with enthusiasm for their live performances, hinted at future success in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Due to various circumstances over the following year, the band became a four-piece – featuring Ciaran Lavery on vocals and guitar, Mo Lavery on lead guitar, Damien McAlinden on bass and Stephen McGurk on drums – and then they announced they were going on an ‘indefinite hiatus’.

Front man Lavery soon resurfaced with a pair of EPs under the moniker Ciaran Lavery and The Bad Hearts, before releasing an excellent solo album Not Nearly Dark at the beginning of 2013. In September, he followed that with an EP of cover versions entitled Other People Wrote These.

For those who never had a chance to hear Captain Kennedy in their final incarnation, however, all is not lost. Now comes a previously unreleased recording, Draw It In Chalk, which was recorded live and in one session at Mogul Studios in Portadown exactly two years prior to its release date. It reveals the path the band were headed down prior to their hiatus.

Opener ‘Passenger Hill’ sets the template for the album, showcasing the four-piece’s beefier, rockier sound – three parts Neil Young’s Crazy Horse to one part Screaming Trees. Lavery’s voice – like a wasp trapped in honey – is a wonderful instrument, simultaneously wounded and soothing.

‘Black Eyes’ is the sound of a weary pledge at the end of a long night’s talking. Over fuzzed guitar, Lavery channels Glen Hansard as he lays down a list of promises that he’s not sure he can keep, the key question being ‘How can anyone be anyone’s one they want?’.

The fear of time running out is a constant lyrical thread throughout the album. ‘Time is not a friend of mine,’ Lavery admits on ‘Then Burning On', whilst ‘The Finer Things’ finds the singer admitting that it’s ‘time to change now I’m 25', as he looks back on happier days.

Album highlight ‘Paper Cuts’ is a disturbing beast of a song, mixing paranoia and masochism into a fearful stew of pounding drums and fuzzed up guitar. ‘Let me be your paper cut / I want to hurt you but just enough’ the singer pleads, his voice rising in anger and confusion as he sings the refrain ‘You want it like that?’.

Title track highlights Captain Kennedy's obvious musicianship, their mastery of light and shade to the fore on a track that screams out to be heard in a concert setting. ‘Doomed’, meanwhile, is the closest to a sing-a-long on the record, whilst final song ‘Roll on Down’ closes the album on a soul note of hopeful resignation – 'Throwing your chest out to the wind and moving on into an unknown future with the person closest to you by your side.'

Draw It In Chalk may or may not be a full stop in the career of a much loved band. Only time will tell. But with Lavery’s solo career moving from strength to strength, it may be some time, if ever, before these songs are performed live. If it is the final chapter in the story of Captain Kennedy, we can be thankful we have this album as a testament to their talent.

Draw It In Chalk is available as a free download via Bandcamp now.