First Impressions: Down Rounder by Cat Clyde

Country-folk with a touch of the blues: That, to an extent, sums up Down Rounder, the third full-length solo set from Canadian singer-songwriter Cat Clyde. She first turned my ears a few years back with the rapturously ramshackle Blue Blue Blue, a joint album with fellow folkie Jeremie Albino that tackled an array of classic folk and blues tunes plus a few originals. Her earlier solo works turned out to be as delightful. As compelling as those efforts were and are, however, they sound positively quaint compared to her latest long-player. (I’d credit the producer, Tony Berg, who oversaw the project during a week’s worth of recording in Hollywood except for this: two songs predate his involvement and they’re just as strong as the ones recorded with him. So chalk it up to artistic growth.)

The 10-song, 34-minute set opens with “Everywhere I Go,” which is accented by a soft rockabilly shuffle and features lyrics about how she carries with her those who came before—and, too, how we, like the nature that surrounds us, are in a state of continual rebirth. “Papa Took My Totems” spirals into a frenzy while recounting how her father—figurative, one hopes—took her beliefs and threw them on the ground. 

“I’m Not Going Back” has all the earmarks of a classic R&B-infused country ballad, with Cat’s aching vocal wrapped around a vow to move forward: “I’m not going back/even if it slows me down/I’m not coming back around.” “The Gloom,” one of the two songs recorded at her home studio in 2019 (and produced by Clyde and her partner, Strummer Jasson), celebrates her love for the moon: “She always comes around/She never lets me down/She keeps my secrets sound.” 

“Mystic Light,” another foray into paganism, reminds me somewhat of Van Morrison’s early spiritual jaunts; it’s a mesmerizing song with an old-school sensibility. “Real Love” continues the mood while recounting a trip into the mysticism that is love; it has the feel of a lost ‘50s R&B delight due to its shuffled beat and swooping backing vocals. “I Feel It,” another track about the power and pull of nature, is the second of the tracks recorded at her home studio. It opens stark, just Cat at the piano, before expanding its palate: “Everything becomes more clear when it’s raining/All the dread that’s in my head starts to fade and/I just want to take off all my clothes and start running, running, running/Oh can’t touch me now cause I’m moving.” 

“Eternity” questions how and when we should realize life transformations are complete. (The answer, of course, is that human metamorphosis is never complete; like it or not, we’re in a continual state of becoming.) The bluesy “Hawk in the Tree” is another highlight, with Cat wishing that she could fly high and be free of the troubles she carries with her on the ground “Send You Love,” the album closer, is another stylistic throwback that finds her wishing a loved one the best despite the distance that lies between them.

I have a habit of throwing around hyperboles. This I know. So I’ll sidestep saying what a wondrous and sublime outing Down Rounder is and instead expand upon what I said at the start: It’s country-folk with a dash of rockabilly, a touch of the blues, and some old-school R&B, too. I highly recommend it.

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