Maisie Kappler – “too dumb to be clever” / “Cry Me A River”

Columbus folk singer-songwriter Maisie Kappler has blessed us with two singles over the past two months: April’s “too dumb to be clever” and May’s “Cry Me A River.” These releases mark the follow-ups to 2021’s album Don’t Make This About You, which is, as well, a phenomenal showcase of Kappler’s doll-esque voice. It’s so pure. 

The first of these two releases is an original track. It goes something like a sultry lullaby, with its looping, glistening guitar and separately layered vocals. It swings and sways on an emotional palette of both feeling and not feeling. Lines such as, “Lay my head outside/I’m trapped all day inside,” is evidence of a writer who is both aware and unaware of their turmoil. One of the final damning lines of the song professes, “A life will pass right by me/A lifetime spent in loving.” It’s evocative of being able to feel but also not being able to do anything with or about these frames of mind. The very final ruinous line we’re left with: “I’ll find I was no one/Let me have my fun.” A thought we all have to eventually come to in order to enjoy life, to an extent.

The overdubbed vocals that are layered through each other and throughout the track – with airy lyrics floating near the front behind more dominant, luscious vocals – really builds in the second half of the song. This is especially true on the third verse. It’s indicative of two different mindsets, almost dueling with each other over this passing thought of, “Am I too dumb to be clever?” With art, I try to look for musicians who have a way of saying these things that have been toiled into lyrics for decades and decades. But when you hear it, it sounds like it has never been said before. This is also true with Kappler’s music, who is unapologetically herself.

 “Cry Me a River” – a tribute to Julie London with the original song written by Arthur Hamilton – is a sultry, jazzy cover that still has us hearing Kappler in an adept light. (The cover artwork is also an homage to Julie London’s version.) While this cover is a little less fervent than the single that preceded it, it’s still in that realm of emotionally in-tune music. It starts off with the bristling sounds of a running creek before being joined by a jazzy guitar accompaniment (Mason Von Sloma). It’s an extremely delicate tribute.

Kappler’s voice is a mature one, even when she’s not singing her own song. It’s also sensible when she’s putting forth original material as well. The venerable layering on both of these songs – between the breathy moans on “Cry Me A River” and the intricate echoing on “too dumb to be clever” – this is definitely an artist to keep an ear to the future for.

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