Michael Schatte – Conundrum
Self-Release – 2020
15 tracks; 67 minutes
Initially starting as a blues artist while still a teenager, Canada’s Michael Schatte has expanded his sound to incorporate celtic, rock and bluegrass influences, leading to a genre he describes as “Eclectic Electric Roots Music”. This eclecticism is evident in his most recent release Conundrum, often resulting in an almost exotic sound.
For example, the track “Bread, Water, Love” starts with poetic spoken word, and the instrumental tune that ends the album, “Good King Richard,” (the only non-original track on the album), appears to merge bluegrass and elements of Scottish ballads. One particularly intriguing song, “Silly Old Man”, combines a galloping cowboy beat with jazz-influenced, chromatic vocals that build to a crescendo. The interesting lyrics of that song note, “There he goes, respect him won’t you? All those men he slew while on campaign—insane. Fascist pride in homicide. When asked about those days he said yes, man, I’d do it again.”
Schatte’s solid vocals and exceptional guitar work are consistent throughout this album, which he produced and engineered himself. However, it is his clever lyrics, (often referencing troubled relationships), that truly make it unique. One of the few more clearly blues-influenced songs, “Come on Down” references the frustration of seeing the woman he loves remain in an abusive relationship. “Years and years you’ve loved a bad man. Tears and tears each time he raised a hand. Please, please woman, see the light. Cast aside his sorry hide and come with me tonight.”
Schatte’s self-deprecating humor is also a consistent theme, and he describes how he believes “inside my mind the wheels are misaligned” in “A Mind, A Mess.” Additionally, one hilarious song about sibling rivalry, “Please Don’t Dance With My Brother,” stands out as possibly the best track and also is the only other song with an obvious blues influence. In it the endearing lyrics note, “If you don’t dance with me, please don’t dance with my brother. Don’t pass me over for a man from the very same mother. There’s plenty of men who want to take you out dancing. Don’t pick the one who looks like me, only handsome.”
The drawback to this album for hardcore blues fans is that, while eclectic, the rock and celtic influences are clearly the most prominent, with only two tracks likely to even be considered for air time on a blues station. However, Schatte is most definitely a skillful guitarist, an excellent singer, and a wonderful lyricist. So, for those who are fans of all genres of music, they are likely to find the selections featured on Conundrum quite captivating.