Rod Gilstrap is a contemporary country singer/songwriter based in Wyoming with a knack for writing melodic and emotional songs and a smooth frontman’s voice with which to sing them. His latest release, Cavalier, is a mostly acoustic effort that takes advantage of the minimal arrangements employed and keeps listener’s attention squarely focused on Gilstrap’s lyrics, characters, and stories. Country music is a storytelling art, after all, one that’s been corrupted in recent times and could use a lot more of what Rod has to offer. His songs are simple and direct with an easy spaciousness only a lifelong Westerner like himself could deliver.
Like the best country music, Gilstrap’s songs capture and explore little slices of everyday life, some pleasant and some not. He is unafraid to dive deeper than many songwriters do into life’s difficult moments and introduce us to the real people experiencing them.
One of the best songs here is “Liquor Store Parking Lot,” a morning-after story with a “Sunday Morning Coming Down” sort of feeling a lot of us can relate to. “Is There Anyway” is a delicate song of love and heartbreak that is a sure-fire hit single waiting to happen that also features some of Gilstrap’s most expressive vocal moments. Other high points include “Abigail” and “Small Town Boy.”
The biggest thing Rod Gilstrap has going for him is his genuineness. Quite simply, you believe him when he sings to you. He has the ability to put you inside the minds of his characters in a way that lets you feel a little piece of this person’s life. Cavalier doesn’t come off like the work of a Nashville profiteer pandering to radio but as the songs of an actual human that stay in your heart long after the music has stopped playing. Fans watching the indie country underground need to start listening. They’ll find a lot to like on this one.
-Review by Mike O’Cull, independent music journalist. www.mikeocull.com