Kat Danser – Goin’ Gone
10 tracks; 40 minutes
For Edmonton, Canada-based Kat Danser’s 5th album, she’s put together a very listenable collection of original tunes that encompass a wide swath of country blues and roots styles. With engaging songs and top-flight performances by a stellar group of musicians, the album has the appeal of a familiar old, comfortable sweater that that just makes you feel good… real good!
Danser is a three-time nominee for a Western Canadian Music Award; a winner of the Ambassador of the Blues Award from the Blues Underground Network; and winner of a Best Independent Album prize from the International Blues Competition Best Independent Blues, to name just a few of her accolades. With a rich contralto somewhat reminiscent of a Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading, Danser’s distinctive voice is immediately identifiable and easily draws you into her evocative musical storytelling.
An award-winning touring artist, Danser has performed at numerous festivals, including the Canadian Women in Blues Festival, Calgary International Blues Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Calgary Folk Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival, Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, Folk on the Rocks Festival in Yellowknife, Regina Folk Festival, Saskatoon Blues Festival, Lethbridge Jazz Festival, Vancouver Island MusicFest, Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Harmony Bazaar Festival, Mountainview Music Festival, Islands Music Festival, and the Winter Roots & Blues Festival, to name a few.
Hardly your garden-variety blues musician, Danser has been an educator at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta for nearly a decade, and holds a Ph.D. in Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Research for her thesis took her to many southern states, where she immersed herself in both the music and the culture that spawned it. She clearly knows a great deal about the music styles she loves, and it shows in both her songwriting and her performances. A visit to YouTube will turn up dozens of performance videos, with Danser accompanying herself on acoustic or electric guitar, and typically backed by some very talented musicians; it’ll be well worth your time.
Eight of the 10 songs on this collection are originals, and the two covers – Sam McGhee’s “Chevrolet Car” and Fred MacDowell’s “Train I Ride” – have been reinterpreted to make them feel right at home with Danser’s unique musical aesthetic. In addition to having some wonderful songs and terrific individual performances, Goin’ Gone also benefits from excellent production and mixing, allowing the instrumentation to really serve the songs, and support Danser’s voice and her unique lyricism.
Album personnel include Danser on vocals and guitar; Steve Dawson on guitar and pedal steel; Jeremy Holmes on bass and mandolin; Gary Craig on drums; Jim Hoke on harmonica and saxophone; and Matt Combs on fiddle and mandolin. The album was expertly produced by Dawson, who also produced Danser’s previous effort, 2013’s Baptized By Mud.
The opening track, “Goin’ Gone,” is an up-tempo “road” song that chugs along at a nice, leisurely pace, accentuated by some tasteful slide rhythm, some chicken-picking from Steve Dawson, and Jim Hoke’s soulful harmonica playing.
The solid backbeat of “Voodoo Groove” complements the swampy feel of the tremolo guitar and pulsing bass, while Danser fleshes-out her characters with some nice lyrical twists. Once again, Hoke and Dawson bring some tasty harmonica and guitar, respectively, to perfectly season this gumbo.
The electric slide that propels “Memphis, Tennessee” evokes Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George, but the lyrics and arrangement are definitely Danser’s own.
Sam McGhee’s “Chevrolet Car” is a rootsy foot-stomper, with an almost bluegrass feel, thanks to a chunky, rhythmic strum and Matt Combs’ distinctive fiddle work.
“Kansas City Blues” is a minor blues, a lamentation of a “broke, worn and tired Kansas City,” with a tremolo-infused rhythm guitar accentuated by Dawson’s weepy pedal steel licks.
Other notable tracks include the melancholy yearning of “My Town,” and the call-to-action of “Light the Flame,” a commentary on the current state of politics both in the U.S. and around the globe.
All in all, Goin’ Gone is a collection of solid tunes, crisp arrangements, and wonderful performances, and still sounds fresh after repeated listening. Her website also has a downloadable PDF with all of the album notes and even song lyrics… a nice touch in for us info junkies, especially this age of streaming and digital downloads.
Bottom line? If you’re a fan of warm, soulful roots and Americana music played with a distinctive personality, you owe it to yourself to check out Danser’s latest effort… and while you’re at it, you might want to give a listen to her other CDs, as well! It’s all good!