EDITOR’S NOTE: As album releases slow down in December, we like to catch our breath and write about albums that came out earlier in the year that we didn’t get a chance to review but we think are worthy of your attention. Blue Blue Blue was released in May.
Blue Blue Blue is the sort of record that can spoil you for other kinds of albums, not because it’s perfect, but because it isn’t. The first collaboration (with more to come, hopefully) of Cat Clyde and Jeremie Albino, this succinct, nine-song set feels just right. The Canadians cover classic folk, blues, and country material with easygoing enthusiasm, minus any musty reverence, and toss in a couple of like-minded originals, capturing the satisfying immediacy of simply making and sharing music for its own sake, no higher purpose required.
Backed primarily by their acoustic guitars, with a dash of bass and drums here and there, Clyde and Albino show how much can be achieved by two compatible, down-home voices, sometimes harmonizing with high lonesome zest and sometimes trading lines like sparring partners. There’s a tense undertone to her singing suitable for dark, late-night laments; he projects a looser, unhurried vibe guaranteed to lower the blood pressure. The subtle push and pull between their styles adds an arresting edge in even the quietest moments.
The songs they pick are gems. A leisurely take on “What Am I Living For,” memorably performed by R&B great Chuck Willis and by Conway Twitty in his early, Elvis-inspired days, occasions some fine hollering, while Woody Guthrie’s somber migrant tale “Pastures of Plenty” is haunting. Gently menacing, Blind Willie McTell’s “You Were Born to Die” delivers a shot of ominous wisdom as they sing, “You made me love you / And you made me cry / You should remember / That you were born to die.” The Carter Family’s “Hello Stranger” and Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train” possess a jaunty verve reminiscent of an old-fashioned hootenanny.
Powered by clanging electric guitar, the Clyde composition “Tried and Cried” gives its story of estranged lovers a bluesy rockabilly spin, warning sternly, “When you walk away from unfinished things they turn into regret.” Keeping that sage observation in mind, here’s hoping Cat Clyde and Jeremie Albino steal time from their solo careers for another joint venture, and leave the polish behind once again.