In a music age where it’s common to wait at least 3 years (sometimes even more) for a band to put out a new record, it’s impressive when artists are able to produce music more consistently. And while keeping them of increasing quality. Even more impressive is a musician like Andy Hull. Working with 5 different bands, he’s collaborated on over 15 album or EP releases since 2004, not to mention his numerous guest appearances on various other band’s albums, including O’Brother’s Garden Window which he also co-produced. Just reading that list of accomplishments is tiring.
Hull’s latest release is Right Away, Great Captain! a solo project consisting of a concept album trilogy, revolving around the story of a 1700’s man who takes to sea after finding out about his wife’s infidelity with his brother. Culminating in the final album, The Church of the Good Thief, Hull’s latest studio effort brings the story to a close. And in a quite the breathtaking fashion. Though dealing with an epic canvas the story paints, musically Hull is able to keep the reigns in. Much in the mind of his main character, we get a conclusion to the story that isn’t a booming, grand finale but a quiet tale of nostalgia and regret from inside the mind of a sentenced man. To mark the end of his trilogy, and presumably his work with Right Away, Great Captain!, Hull announced a tour in which he’d be playing these songs live for the very first time.
The brief tour soon brought him to The Space in Hamden, CT. Feeling much more like your friend’s basement than a music venue, the intimate and personal aesthetic of the room certainly worked well with Hull’s music. Adorned with couches and tables (though most people were standing), it felt more like you were watching someone in their own house, laying their heart out on the acoustic guitar. First up was Harrison Hudson, who doubled as Hull’s tour manager. With the simple set-up of merely a stool and guitar, Hudson was surprisingly lively, setting up a complimentary sound to the contrasting styles of the second opener and Hull himself. At first glance one may think there’s only one way to play an acoustic guitar, but this lineup proved otherwise. Upbeat chords and Hudson’s remarkable vocal range definitely went down well with the crowd, as the already packed venue was nodding along and applauding riotously after each one of his songs. Following Hudson was Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter. A much more soulful and raspy style of play, he too brought a different take on a one-man acoustic set. Songs ranging from The Dear Hunter catalogue to a stunning cover of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Crescenzo also found a very welcoming crowd. No doubt peppered with The Dear Hunter fans as during many songs you could hear the crowd singing along, something pretty rare for a support act. He closed with ‘Red Hands,’ a song which resonated so well with the audience they seemed to transform into his personal backing track. Thanking a trio of fans whom he called “my personal roving back-up vocal troupe,” he left the stage to cheers and applause.
Soon enough Hull took the stage, dispensing with the usual “hey (insert city name here), how are ya” that most acts go through. Instead he focused on the music, which was as personal and introspective as I’ve ever seen. That’s not to imply that Andy Hull is a troubled sailor from the 1700’s, but in relation to the character the music pulls you right into the mindset of that man. When there’s so much music out there that entails someone half-heartedly picking at an acoustic guitar in an attempt to have “feeling,” it’s really refreshing to see bands like Right Away, Great Captain! make such an impact with a stripped down sound. Andy Hull does an incredible job at creating an intensely vivid imagery, which brings his detailed and well crafted story to life. There isn’t any need for elaborate backdrops, stage pieces, or visuals when instead the music sets the tone and creates the image for you. A sign hanging from the ceiling beam described the crowd perfectly as it read, “Please SHUT UP during acoustic sets,” and that’s exactly what the crowd did. Far from your standard Wednesday night rock show, Right Away, Great Captain! not only crafted a great line-up and encased the crowd in the tragic story of the music, but also proved that acoustic sets don’t have to be boring. They can be as energetic, engaging, and impressive as a full band, if not more so.