It used to be that we didn’t have a very close connection with the artists we love other than maybe a magazine article telling us what they’ve been up to between records. However, these days with social media, we can follow an artist on their journey and get an idea of what it takes to survive as a musician.
It’s been four years since Cat Clyde blew my mind with her opening set ahead of Shakey Graves and it’s been two years since her first album – the bluesy jazzy folk of ‘Ivory Castanets‘. That may seem like a long time, but if you’ve followed her on social media you’d know that over those four years she’s worked her ass off, constantly touring, and carefully and strategically building up a following by getting herself heard by as many people as possible.
Her sophomore record – ‘Hunters Trance’ shows clearly that the most obvious result of this time well spent was the honing of her songwriting skills. ‘Hunters Trance‘ is an unhurried marvel of grace and timeless songcraft and if the planets are aligned, it should have Cat Clyde playing in front of larger and larger crowds.
The album leads off with the southern gothic, blue-eyed soul of ‘Bird Bone’ sending the message that her voice is, and always will be the ace up her sleeve and she’s playing that card early
While tradition is still paramount, on most of the 11 tracks Clyde is backed by the Toronto surf-soul band Carlo, making her sound a little less homespun and more polished than her debut. The album leads off with the southern gothic, blue-eyed soul of ‘Bird Bone‘ sending the message that her voice is, and always will be the ace up her sleeve and she’s playing that card early. The driving ‘Reach It‘ mates Americana with indie pop not unlike Okkervil River or even Tom Petty. It’s the farthest she stretches in a new direction and it’s also the hookiest song of the bunch.
But it’s on a song like ‘So Cold‘ that Cat Clyde separates herself from the pack. Here she sings with a maturity far beyond her years; her voice so naturally effortless, a combination of pure strength and emotion. The only comparison I can come up with without reaching into the past and mentioning Dusty Springfield or Patsy Cline is Suzie Ungerleider of Oh Susanna, or Neko Case.
On the shuffling ‘I Don’t Belong Here‘ Clyde sings: “I’m the rover, I’m a loner” perhaps alluding to her life on the road since the last record. The life of a solo musician is a life of never setting down roots anywhere, traveling from place to place, always the new kid in town and at times longing for home, a theme that permeates ‘Hunters Trance‘.
Song placement on an album can carry a lot of weight and the juxtaposition of ‘Anymore‘ and ‘All the Black‘ may be too much for your heart to take. ‘Anymore‘ is a gorgeous torch song of unrequited love worthy of a few tears in your beer in some dark dive bar, while ‘All the Black‘ is a slow burning heartbreaker that once again showcases the power of this young artist’s voice. For this one, you’ll need to break out the whiskey.
‘Not Like You‘ is a world-weary jazzy ballad about a relationship gone sour and conjures Nina Simone’s version of ‘I Put A Spell On You’. ‘Rock & Stone‘ is a folksy number on par with the revivalist sound of Gillian Welch and the standout ‘So Heavy‘, draws on Classic IV’s ‘Spooky‘ (also covered by Dusty Springfield). It will have anyone within hearing distance asking you what you are listening to.
The album closes with both acoustic and full-band versions of ‘The River,’ a previously released track that falls more in-line with her early Dylanesque storytelling folk vibe. Clyde wrote this song after the passing of her beloved dog, just in case you needed another punch in the heart.
‘Hunters Trance‘ is built on a foundation of blues and folk but Cat Clyde should not be pigeon-holed, if only for her voice and that timeless songcraft. Authenticity in 2019 can be superficial, as everything has been done. But ‘Hunters Trance‘ has authenticity in spades, and one gets the feeling that had Cat Clyde been born 80 years earlier she would have been riding the rails with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, playing music simply for the love of it.
‘HuntersTrance‘ will prove to be a timeless record and should have her sharing the stage with names like Sharon Van Etten, Phoebe Bridgers, and Big Thief at the very least.