Salt Year. He could, and might well be, singing about himself and describing his songwriting. But there's no self-pitying putdown or disparagement in those words or in the moody melody that carries them. They're just a clear-eyed statement of some dark realities that might-or might not be- autobiographical. It matters not whether Bathgate crafted these songs out of the difficult stretch he has recently endured in his life, which he refers to in his bio, or whether he has imagined the people and experiences he sings about the way a novelist creates fictional characters and plot. For these are marvelously well-constructed songs, sometimes out of the barest of lyric and melodic materials. "Poor Eliza" has only a three-note melody, and the main lyric is "it is what it is, what it is." Bathgate not only manages to get away with that, he actually gets somewhere..."/>
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Chris Bathgate

 

continued

There are beautiful arrangement touches throughout the album, and Bathgate and his band manage to re-create most of them in their live shows-drum phrases bouncing from left to right speaker (cleverly replicated on stage with extra tom-toms and an auxiliary drummer), guitar notes fading in, mimicking the sound of a pedal steel, gorgeous unison trumpet and trombone blends, with a violin delicately curling and twining around their full-bodied sound. Bathgate and his top-notch band, though not averse to occasional choreographed rock 'n' roll deep knee bends on stage, generate their excitement with the intensity with which they play this great material.

Bathgate's music is a testament to the spirit, as he sings repeatedly in the title tune, of "try again, try again." It's not so much music to accompany drowning your sorrows, as it is music that rises-and raises-from the depths, breaks the surface, and breathes and lives.

Chris Bathgate headlines a show at Woodruff's on Friday, November 4.    (end of article)

[Originally published in November, 2011.]

 

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