Kaia Kater: A New Voice For Our Troubled Times
It is stripped back and measured, but Kaia Kater has a lot to say.
Her new (and second) album Nine Pin (via Kingswood Records) delves into issues faced by African-Americans today and reflects on her own heritage duality. Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, she has deep ties both to Canadian folk and Appalachian music through her time spent in West Virginia. Only twenty-three years of age, her voice is rich and low, part Rhiannon Giddens and part Nina Simone and, armed with just a banjo, she speaks with quiet authority.
Recorded (amazingly) in just one day in Toronto, Nine Pin was produced by both Kater and Canadian artist Chris Bartos (The Barr Brothers, Jonathan Byrd), who also produced her last album Sorrow Bound (2015). That is some achievement and, given the quality of what is on offer on Nine Pin, is a certain indicator of her singular vision. According to her media release, Kater felt that this actually lent focus to the project: “This album was written to be something to listen to from start to finish”.
The opening track is a scene-stealer – ‘Saint Elizabeth’ is a personal journey with mature vocals reminiscent of Sarah Jarosz and the song intensifies beautifully with cutting electric guitar and trumpet. Caleb Hamilton’s trumpet again is striking in the hard-hitting ‘Little Pink’. There is the happy family instrumental jig of ‘Fine Times at Our House’, the wistful and lightning-quick ‘Passing’ and ‘To Come’, as well as the home-sick harmonies of ‘White’. ‘Paradise Fell’ touches on the Black Lives Matter movement, as it does on the defiant ‘Rising Down’, a live version of which you can see below:
Nine Pin has many attractions – the personal narratives of today’s age, the beautiful banjo, the unusual Appalachian/blues meld and the laid-bare arrangements. Kaia Kater is wise and talented beyond her years, a vibrant new voice for these troubled times.
1. “Saint Elizabeth”
2. “Little Pink”
3. “Paradise Fell”
4. “Rising Down”
5. “Harlem’s Little Blackbird”
7. “Nine Pin”
8. “Fine Times at Our House”
10. “Viper’s Nest”
12. “Harvest and the Plough”
13. “Ti Chagrin”
14. “To Come”
15. “Hangman’s Reel”