Kat Danser – One Eye Open
CD: 10 Songs, 38 Minutes
Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, NOLA Blues, Ensemble Blues
What makes a blues release good as opposed to, say, a painting or a sculpture? In the opinion of yours truly, CD’s are more like books than visual works of art. They have titles (usually), overall themes (sometimes), and each separate track is like a separate chapter. These musical “chapters” don’t have to flow naturally from one to the next, but it’s nice if they do. In terms of books and albums alike, what ensures basic quality is consistency. It’s a lesson that Canada blueswoman Kat Danser has taken to heart. So far, she’s produced solid work that has been favorably reviewed by this magazine (Baptized by the Mud in 2014 and Goin’ Gone in 2019). As for her new offering, One Eye Open? I’ll let you blues fans come to a consensus.
Kat Danser (and I, in my humble capacity) present ten tracks – eight originals and two covers. Several are strong and inspiring. Exhibit A? “Way I Like It Done.” It’s a spicy shuffle combining Chicago-style rhythm with New Orleans-style horns. The lyrical content is Kat’s no-nonsense way of presenting herself to her audience: “I’ve got opinions ‘bout situations that don’t concern me at all. I wish I remembered ‘em just now…I just do what I do, the way I like it done.” Exhibit B? Gus Cannon’s “Lonely and the Dragon,” with a lovely acoustic guitar and horn intro, and Danser’s husky vocals to boot. Imagine her singing it on a late night in the big city, the glare of a streetlight keeping sleep from her as well as her lover. Exhibit C, “Bring It With You When You Come,” invites people to get up and dance. If you fear falling, bop and bounce in your favorite chair.
Remember how I mentioned consistency? After the growling-guitar ballad “Frenchman Street” and the apocalyptic gospel plea of Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Get Right, Church,” the album veers into uncharted, unstructured territory. Case in point: the baffling political blues-rock anthem “One Eye Closed.” She doesn’t so much sing as snarl, ticked-off to an absolute T, decrying “kids in cages” and “loaded guns killing off our daughters and sons.” “The world’s gonna end before this song!” As the old saying goes, hell hath no fury, but Kat Danser’s scorn is reserved for the world here.
The next two songs fare a little better, but not by much. “Hey, ‘Trainwre-e-eck’,” Kat jeers. “Pass this station by. You’re hauling heavy, honey, and your baggage car’s on fire.” “Please Don’t Cry” is a love song, pure and simple. It features the word blues, but it’s no Howlin’ Wolf cover. Dig that guitar solo, though, and the spot-on bassline. “Mi Corazon” ends things on another NOLA note, adding Latin flair into the mix.
Joining Ms. Danser (songwriter, vocals, guitar grooves) are producer Steve Dawson on electric, acoustic and pedal-steel guitars; Gary Craig on drums and percussion; Jeremy Holmes on bass, Dominic Conway on tenor sax; Jerry Cook on baritone sax; Malcolm Aiken on trumpet, and Kevin McKendree on piano and organ.
Although One Eye Open boasts some eye-opening material, more consistency across the board would have turned this OK CD into a good and even great one. Here’s hoping Danser achieves it in her next release!