Canada Calling: Kat Goldman explores America’s psyche on The Workingman’s Blues
On her new album The Workingman’s Blues, Toronto-based singer/songwriter Kat Goldman has crafted a powerful statement on the struggles so many of us face today. Essentially a concept album based on her recent real-life experiences living in Boston, the 12-track collection explores the dark underbelly of American society through the eyes of a character, the “workingman,” as told by a female narrator.
As a chronicle of a blue-collar Boston kid’s fight to overcome his hardscrabble upbringing, The Workingman’s Blues presents themes rarely given this much focus in song. In doing so, the album follows in the tradition of artists such as Joni Mitchell and Lucinda Williams by striking a balance between raw emotion and empathy, as brilliantly displayed on songs such as “Take It Down The Line” and “The One To Dream.”
After making several attempts on her own to record the songs, Goldman completed the album with producer/guitarist Bill Bell (Tom Cochrane, Jason Mraz), and a band comprised of bassist Marc Rogers, drummer Davide Direnzo, keyboardist Lou Poumanti and cellist Kevin Fox. Overall, it is Goldman’s most accomplished work to date, with a sound that hearkens back to the ‘70s singer/songwriter era.
“I see this album as hitting a particular moment in America right now,” Goldman says. “The songs all point to the very people who voted for Trump, and yet who are still struggling to be heard. It’s the first time I challenged myself to write with another character in mind, and not from the first person. Musically, I wanted to expand beyond the limitations of being a ‘folk’ artist by stretching my voice and melodies. While writing these songs, I was listening a lot to people like Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, and 70’s rock n’ roll in general.”
Since releasing her debut album, The Great Disappearing Act (produced by JUNO winner Gavin Brown) in 2002, Kat Goldman has been regarded as one of Canada’s best singer/songwriters. Her work has been covered by an array of international artists, including Grammy nominees The Duhks, and prolific American singer-songwriter Dar Williams who has long been one of Kat’s great supporters. One of that album’s standout tracks, “Annabel,” has been featured in a number of television series and documentaries, along with being quoted in author Kathleen Winter’s Giller Prize-nominated novel of the same name.
Goldman’s 2007 sophomore album Sing Your Song came after she survived nearly being killed by a car crashing through a store window, and the record’s inspirational tone earned widespread acclaim, including being named one of CBC Radio’s Top 10 albums of that year. In 2009, Goldman began studying English Literature at Boston University, which had a strong influence on her next album, 2013’s Gypsy Girl, which explored her wanderlust and yearning for home.
Now with The Workingman’s Blues, Goldman fully evokes her time in Boston when violence and racial tension were on the rise, due largely to a decline in sustainable employment. “Through people I got to know, I learned a lot about the rage and resentment that exists in America, some of it as a result of family violence and addiction. In the song ‘The Courthouse,’ I tried to tell the story of Harry, a dear friend. He’s an elderly black man who grew up in racist Roxbury in the 1950s, fought in Viet Nam, battled heroin addiction, faced two years of incarceration for domestic violence, and yet as an older person, Harry continues to discover himself, his flaws, and atone for his past mistakes.”
Conveying such wisdom is sorely needed right now, and Kat Goldman’s The Workingman’s Blues does it in a manner that’s both musically uplifting and lyrically heart rendering.