When she opened for Lissie last year at the 9:30 Club, Canadian indie-folk artist Cat Clyde stunned the audience with an incredible solo electric set. People in the audience were comparing her to Sinead O’Connor.
When I heard that Clyde was playing a full set at the Songbyrd Music House recently, I was excited to see what she could do, especially with a band. I was generously rewarded with a show that exceeded expectations.
Born in southwestern Ontario, Clyde grew up in rural Perth County, near Stratford, where her parents owned a music shop. At the age of 14, she got a guitar, and she quickly progressed on the instrument to the point she was teaching at her parents’ shop. While in high school, she joined her first band, the Big Wheels. Moving to Stratford after high school, she enrolled in college, where she studied the music business, and she busked during the warmer months. She also joined the surk punk band the Shitbats as a vocalist.
Describing Cat as an indie-folk artist doesn’t quite do justice to her. There’s definitely folk in what she does, but there’s also a lot of blues. Her dark love song, “All The Black,” which she closed the show with, sounds like something that could’ve been written by the late Jason Molina (of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company). Cat’s work is often melancholy and brooding, even gothic, much like Molina’s. It’s folk and blues channeled by someone who has also ingested the moodiness of grunge. And, like Jason, Cat primarily plays electric guitar: there was just one song, which she played solo, on acoustic.
Watch the official music video for “All the Black” by Cat Clyde on YouTube:
While there are similarities to Molina, one clear difference is in Clyde’s singing. Molina had a very imperfect voice, the kind that could be described as “an acquired taste.” No such thing can be said of Clyde. AllMusic has described her singing as “crystalline.” Playing with another guitarist and a bassist, the arrangements were such as to allow Clyde’s vocals and her lyrics to come to the front, as they should.
Earlier this year, Clyde released her third solo album of original songs, Down Rounder, to critical acclaim.
At Songbyrd Music House on Oct. 23, Cat kicked off her USA tour behind the record. She began with one of the new songs, “Mystic Light,” then threw in an old tune, “So Heavy.” She quickly got back into the new material, playing “Everywhere I Go.” “Hawk In The Tree,” she told the audience, is about “an urge I often get to be a bird.” Introducing “The Gloom,” she said, “I’m into spooky things.”
After another new song, “Real Love,” the band left the stage and Cat switched to acoustic guitar. She played a song I wasn’t familiar with, “Dark Moon,” an old ’50s hit by Bonnie Guitar (who I’d also not heard of.) Still solo, she played an untitled new song — even with a recent album, she’s already working on new material. The band came back for “Not Like You” and “Man I Loved Blues,” after which Cat played another new tune, “Where Is My Love.”
The set included two more tracks from Down Rounder, “Papa Took My Totems” and “Eternity,” along with “Bird Bone,” “So Cold,” and show closer “All The Black.”
Watch the official music video for “Papa Took My Totems” by Cat Clyde on YouTube:
This show had not one, but two opening acts. First up was Red Sandy, a twangy, country-rock trio from Baltimore. They were followed by Driftwood Soldier, an interesting mandolin and bass duo. It’s a little harder to categorize them; the bass work reminded me of Mike Watt of the Minutemen.
Mondays are a notoriously tough night for music, but a solid audience showed up to hear Clyde. They were enthusiastic, with some even dancing with one of the faster songs. Mostly, though, we were stunned into silence by the power and beauty of Cat’s vocals and her often haunting lyrics.
This being late October, Halloween is right around the corner, and you might be looking for some seasonal mood music. If you are, I can’t recommend strongly enough you check out Clyde’s albums. You’ll be impressed with her gothic folk-blues and the quality of her vocals. And if you get the chance to see her live, you’ll be even more impressed.