Cathy Hutch releases new LP
Cathy Hutch releases new LP
“Alternative singer/songwriter” has been the standard label for artists who skirt the lines of folk and rock but adhere to independent, post-punk DIY ethics. These parameters occasionally allow for an intersection with other genres as well, as widely reaching from hip-hop all the way to country and bluegrass music. In the case of Cathy Hutch, even the alt singer/songwriter label seems awfully limiting considering her enormous capacity for creating pragmatic, sonically calculated songs that not only touch on subject matter typically associated with country music, but embrace the guitar-heavy, grinding overdrive of amplified blues rock. Her new album, Free Wheelin’, is a great introduction to her hybrid style for fans not familiar with her amazingly articulate and haunting songwriting.
Aptly produced by the legendary Paul Milner along with Chris Corrigan and Geoff Arsenault, Free Wheelin’ is an 11 song journey through the caverns of Cathy Hutch’s most intimate thoughts and emotions compressed into full-range, high definition stereo glory. Although packed full of rhythmic, catchy hooks and contemporary fusions of desert rock fuzz and Delta blues riffage, there’s a wholesome, almost pastoral quality to the whole of Free Wheelin’ that oddly enough recalls Dylan’s Blood on the Tracksfor me. There’s a considerable amount of tension looming in the foregrounds of these lyrics, but Hutch is calm, cool and collected in her smooth, delicately woven expressions of pain and cathartic release. The song “Reflections of My Life” opens in an old school, British blues kind of fashion, and out of nowhere we’re greeted by a Beatlesy string arrangement that could be overwhelming if left to its own devices. The strings don’t stand a chance against Hutch’s backing band however, and the rich textures created by the guitars reign supreme over this song in every sense. The title track is another fine gem on Free Wheelin’ and sports perhaps the most stunning axe work on the whole record. In a culmination of the nine songs that run before it, “Free Wheelin’” takes us uninhibitedly flying down an open highway, surging past the dusty roadhouse saloons and broken down ghost towns that dot the heartland of North America. “I need the sun kissing my lips and the wind caressing my face,” she sings, “Feel the power at my fingertips, launching me forward into space, you know that I’ll be setting the pace, I’m free wheelin’ now.” In that lyric she’s taking us with her at a hundred miles per hour, and there’s seemingly no end in sight for us on this widening horizon.
The biggest recurring theme on Free Wheelin’ is Cathy Hutch’s feverish plea for us, the listeners, to get out there, break away from the chains that keep us tied down emotionally, spiritually and romantically, and do the one thing that we were all put on this earth to do: Live. There’s probably never been another time in the history of the western world that people needed to be reminded of that very message than our present one, when it seems like people are more tightly wound and robotically trained than ever before. In that context, Free Wheelin’ could not have come at a better time.