Today’s post is about Caitlin Robertson, whose debut disc Coyote Blues has generated a lot of attention this month and who will be visiting the shop to perform on Sunday, but I want to say a few words about today’s “promotion”. Yesterday I announced that we would be donating half of today’s sales to Four Winds Saratoga, a mental health treatment center in New York, in memory of Daniel J. Levy. Daniel is the son of one of our favorite local musicians, Adam Levy. He took his own life this past weekend after a long struggle with mental illness.
We had no idea there would be such a response to our suggestion – We plan to honor our pledge so we hope you will come into the shop and buy an album.
A friend of mine took his own life nearly four years ago, and it must take longer than that to get over the heartbreak because I’m not even close. Losing a loved one to suicide is a unique and horrible trauma, a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
The thing about supporting an organization like Four Winds Saratoga (or the Crisis Center and SAVE here in the Twin Cities) is that there are opportunities to prevent just such a tragedy. Daniel was an extraordinarily original artist (you’ve seen us praise a work by him if you’ve been reading this blog) and he was young. He had a lifetime’s potential that is now lost. I feel the same way about my friend, who I remember as a gifted writer and creative thinker. We can only imagine the things that might have happened.
And that’s what I wanted to say about that.
(“Red Barn so Lonely”)
Poor Caitlin Robertson, whose new album I wanted to write about today, has to follow all this sad news. Of course, she starts her album out with a sad song. My initial reaction to Coyote Blues was based on two sort of sad songs, advance tracks Caitlin sent to us before the CD’s release last month. The first two tracks on the disc are great, but they don’t fairly represent the variety of songs and the talent that went into them. Coyote Blues has twelve original songs and also contributions from some of the Twin Cities’ best, including co-producer Ian Thomas Alexy, Erik Koskinen and (only on one track!) one of absolute favorites Jake Hyer.
(“Meet me in Port Townsend”)
Caitlin’s voice walks a line between country and old time folk music probably familiar to fans of Lucinda Williams or Caitlin Cary. To her natural gift I’d say she’s added a little sadness from Jimmie Rodgers and a little lightheartedness courtesy of Greg Brown, although it’s not easy to pin down originality with references to familiar favorites. The tracks on Coyote Blues jump up and down a lot in terms of tempo and temperament but they are consistently good.
There’s a story about Charlie Parker playing country songs on every jukebox. Some young lion complained and Bird said, “Listen to the stories.” Whether it’s true or not, the point is that country music is inherently narrative, and at it’s best the narrative is compelling. In Charlie Parker’s day the average country LP, a relatively new thing, had a couple of hot singles and ten tracks of filler – that’s why so many people (I’m one of them) collect country 45s.
Nowadays the expectation is higher, although few country singer-songwriters deliver a dozen great story songs on a single disc – Caitlin Robertson’s debut does it, even delivering a great new closing time sud-sopped heartbreaker with “Bar Napkin”. Time will tell if she can keep it up, but she’s off to a great start and we see a bright future.
(“Ice Cream Song (Meltin’ Fast)”
Caitlin Robertson will perform songs from Coyote Blues at Hymie’s on Sunday January 22nd at 3pm. She will be joined by Jake Hyer, who will be making his fifth appearance in our shop! If he keeps this up we’re going to get him his own coffee mug to keep here.