Caleb and Saleem: Outgrown These Walls
Last year, WTMD-FM's local music program Baltimore Unsigned embarked on an intriguing but risky project: pairing up two disparate musicians who'd never heard of each other for an unlikely collaboration. Twangy rock combo Caleb Stine and the Brakemen and hip-hop band Saleem and the Music Lovers come from different enough backgrounds to make adequately strange bedfellows, but when their respective frontmen got together, the common ground they found was surprisingly fertile. The four songs originally commissioned grew to 10, which were recorded live with an in-studio audience for an album.
The first few songs on Outgrown These Walls betray their origins as an arranged collaboration, Saleem Heggins' lyrics on "We Write Blue" and "Copy Write" both detailing the struggles and rewards of songwriting itself. But the former is also a perfect opener, the raspy grain of the rapper's voice sounding strangely at home over Stine's steady, circular acoustic riff. Heggins' slow flow gradually accelerates to mirror a rush of inspiration, then winds back down when a phone call interrupts the work, and gives way to Stine's deep drawl.
So many rock/rap collaborations lean on either the novelty of culture shock, or the loudest each genre has to offer. But instead of combining chest-thumping rhymes and screaming guitar solos, Heggins and Stine are at their most contemplative throughout, to the point that when Stine plugs in an electric on a couple songs, it's almost jarring. The album's closing song has no right to be as affecting as it is, considering how obvious the subject matter of a song called "Hope" recorded in November 2008 should be, but it's perfectly in keeping with the incredible warmth and sincerity of the entire project.