Toronto based post-punk, blues band catl. is led by Jamie Fleming. The guitar player, vocalist and songwriter has compiled a list of five blues players and songs that help to define some of the elements that he finds inspirational.
Two significant events brought me to the blues. Pierre Hallett from Rotate This (record store here in Toronto) recommended I buy a Mississippi Fred McDowell record when I requested a blues musician worth checking out. I grew up listening to punk rock and I knew punk came from rock ’n’ roll, and that rock ’n’ roll came from rhythm and blues. I wanted to look back to hear where it all came from. Once I heard McDowell's style of making one guitar sound like two or more guitars, and seemingly doing something so simple yet making it sound so intense and soulful, I felt I needed to try and figure out what was going on. Also, around this time I had a work accident where I severely cut my left “frettin'” hand and did some tendon damage. The hand never worked as well as it once did. The Delta-style blues allowed me to concentrate on rhythms and picking with my “strummin'” hand, taking some stress off the damaged one. It didn't hurt that I found an old 1949 Gretsch archtop that fit my style and my hands perfectly. I don't know who played it before me, but that guitar was made to make people move.
Bukka White, “Poor Boy Long Way From Home”
This is a song that catl. plays. Lots of the old Delta guys do some sort of version of this song. They'll take a song they've heard and play it in their own style, although there may be similarities, each interpretation is unique. It doesn't hurt that he's playing slide with what looks like a screwdriver.
Dr. Isaiah Ross, “Feel So Good”
This guy is a good representative for the Detroit blues sound. Everyone's gotta love John Lee Hooker, and you can hear similarities in their driving beats and vocal delivery. Catl. has recorded a fair bit in Detroit to try and capture some of that drive and energy that characterizes the area. Lots of Detroit bands have played in Toronto over the years and the two cities continue to influence each other. It's also amazing that Ross is a left-handed guitar player but he's playing a right-handed guitar flipped upside down without reversing the strings. Crazy.
Mississippi Fred McDowell, “Goin Down to the Rover”
Fred McDowell is probably my biggest influence. He uses a real droning bass style and lays the melody underneath; all the while keeping a driving steady beat. It's real Mississippi Hill style. This song shows a strong affinity for gospel music that was the backbone for many of his songs. Really intense! And he's playing his Chicago Kay archtop that really captures his acoustic style.
R.L.Burnside, “Poor Black Mattie”
Another Mississippi Hill guy that got his start from picking up a guitar that Mississippi Fred McDowell had just finished playing at a house party. When McDowell came back in the room he said that R.L. was sounding pretty good. Check out the woman holding his mic for him while he performs his version of “Black Mattie.” This is another song that catl. takes a kick at from time to time.
Skip James, “Devil Got My Woman”
Another man that struggled between the church and the blues. James abandoned his music career shortly after his 1928 recording session, took up some preaching, only to be brought back to performing the blues in the ’60s blues revival. This is a great performance in a juke joint style surrounding with Howlin’ Wolf and Son House in attendance (they would perform later that same night). James’s guitar playing is really intense, and I can't really figure out what the hell is going on.
catl. launch the new CD, Soon This Will All Be Gone, live Friday Apr 13 at Parts & Labour (1566 Queen Street West, Toronto).
New catl. CD
Track of the day: catl
Saturday Night Blues
on Apr 05, 2012