Music has been a central component of Stefani Capizzi's life since childhood. Her grandfather was a touring jazz musician, and her father is a guitarist. The Vermont songwriter began penning her own songs as a teenager. Then life happened. As an adult, Capizzi set music aside while she raised a family. But in 2005 she picked up her guitar again. A decade later, she began work on her debut album, What You've Heard, released in late 2015.
Perhaps owing to the wisdom of age and experience, Capizzi seems to subscribe to the notion that anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do right. And her eight-song debut is certainly well done. Capizzi enlisted the multitalented Vermont musician Colin McCaffrey to engineer and produce the record. He also essentially serves as her backing band, playing acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass guitar, Dobro, mandolin, fiddle, and lap steel guitar, as well as contributing backing vocals. As a result, the album sounds fantastic and has the warm, professional polish that is McCaffrey's signature.
His immaculately rendered arrangements bolster Capizzi's own performance. What You've Heard has a few hesitant moments, perhaps suggesting a little insecurity. But when Capizzi sings confidently — anchored by McCaffrey's elegant playing — she carries the record.
On opener "Don't Wake Me Up," Capizzi sings tenderly of wanting to remain in a lover's bed while the realities of the outside world beckon. McCaffrey unfurls slick electric licks that work in concert with the Patty Griffin-esque melody.
On a rootsy cover of "Landslide," McCaffrey's tumbling Dobro is a perfect choice, imparting just the right amount of lilting twang to complement Cappizi's straightforward treatment of the Fleetwood Mac classic.
"What You've Heard" and the following song, "Where You've Been," serve as the album's centerpiece. The title song reveals reverence for Emmylou Harris in both style and tone. Though it suffers from some stilted phrasing, the latter cut hints at an affinity for Iris DeMent and her biting lyrical charm.
What You've Heard closes on a cover of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love." Here, McCaffrey's swooning fiddle lends the tune a rustic, romantic feel. Capizzi's performance is sweet and understated, allowing the song's natural emotional pull to shine. It's a fine finish to a promising debut. Here's hoping Vermonters won't have to wait another 10 years for the follow-up.
Stefani Capizzi plays on Friday, May 27, at Bagitos Bagel and Burrito Café in Montpelier. For more information, visit capizzimusic.com.