A Charmingly Simple Production Masks Some Deeply Personal and Intricate Songs.
I can’t believe that it’s been five full years since Catherine MacLellan released RAVEN …… but it is.
Where does the time go?
Unlike Coldplay and the likes, Cat hasn’t been sitting on a beach contemplating her navel while sipping Champagne Cocktails in-between releases; nope she’s been as busy as ever celebrating the life and work of her father Gene MacLellan in song and on stage. Who he? Only the man who wrote the legendary Snowbird; among many other slightly less celebrated but still amazing songs.
But that ‘break’ and presumably re-discovering her father’s masterworks, has given Ms MacLellan a fresh outlook on her own writing; or that’s how it seems to me on the mysterious COYOTE that opens the album. While a ‘simple’ love lorn Folk song at first hearing; the singer uses the marvelous imagery of the howling coyotes in the hills around her home, for the spirit of love that is missing from her relationship.
“Coyote running through the fields
Followed by the moon
Wild thing you don’t bend or yield
It’s me who gives in too soon”
There’s a charming simplicity to all 14 of the songs here; but don’t fall into the trap that any of the songs are ‘simple’; Catherine has the ability to create beautiful, yet melancholic stories that paint vivid pictures in your head.
Night Crossing; about her travelling on the night ferry from England to Holland is an odd subject; but add a Celtic fiddle and you feel your are standing in her place; and the loneliness she describes in Breath of Wind is heartbreakingly beautiful, in a way that I could never find the words to describe.
That’s the thing with songwriters like Catherine; they have the ability to find light when the rest of us only shade; which is a true gift.
Sweet By and By and Too Many Hearts are two perfect examples of the Songwriters Craft being used in a way mere mortals can never express. The first is a wonderful story of Cat meeting up with an old friend at a bar she was singing in and the cat n mouse interplay that followed; whereas the latter is a dark slice of Alt. Folk describing the confusion we all feel when a relationship ends.
“Too many hearts are broken over fear
Too many hearts are broken here my dear
So let’s not break these hearts of ours
Send them up to the moon and stars.”
Like most of her contempories Cat appears to have given up trying to write a commercial song that will become a radio hit (or should that be Spotify?); she writes from the heart; and whatever will be, will be; try listening to the engaging Come Back In or Roll With The Wind to hear a Master Craftswoman at work …… which also brings me to my Favourite track; Emmet’s Song.
Even without the aid of a crib sheet, you know this is a deeply personal song about a real person; and so it is. ‘Emmet’ is Cat’s ‘troubled’ teenage nephew who came to live with her. This could have been about me during my own teenage years; or at least two nephews and a niece of my own ….. and I’m sure you will find someone close to you who has lived through the same experiences and, mercifully come out the other side without the aid of an Aunt like Catherine MacLellan. 10/10 all around.
I’ve been playing this album amid the hub-bub of the early Holiday season alongside the most spiteful General Election I’ve ever known; and it’s been a perfect antidote to the utter madness that is currently surrounding me.
There are as many fragile songs here as there are optimistic and even empowering songs; such is Catherine McClellan’s wonderful way with storytelling; that she can make them flow like life itself.
Released 6th December 2019