This may introduce many of you to Edmonton, Canada blues artist Kat Danser, a three time nominee for a Western Canadian Music Award and a national Maple Blues Award – Best New Artist of the Year, winner of the Ambassador of the Blues Award (Blues Underground Network) and the IBC Best Independent Blues Album, as well as being voted to have made one of the Top 5 Roots & Blues Albums of 2014 (CBC Radio & Blues Underground Network). Yes, that’s one long sentence but it lets you know that she’s been on the scene for some time.
Her fifth album, Goin’ Gone, is a collaboration between Danser and Juno-award winning producer(and label president) Steve Dawson. It celebrates her passion for the roots of blues music and her achievements as a graduate student at the University of Alberta where she has now officially become Dr. Kat Danser with a PhD in Ethnomusicology.
Danser plays in a straight-ahead style, acoustic-based augmented by electrics in places. Danser sings with a robust voice and can growl, belt or croon depending on the need of the song. Several tunes, like the title track and “Chevrolet Car,” and “Train I Ride” carry a traveling motif. Given her knowledge of the blues, she’s comfortable singing about the American blues centers (“Memphis, Tennessee” “Kansas City Blues”). She wrote eight of the ten here, proving her ability to dig right into a traditional blues mode.
As with most sessions involving Dawson, you’ll hear both his masterful guitar picking and slide work. There’s some strong fiddle work from Matt Combs on “Chevrolet Car” and stellar blues harp from multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke on several tracks. Dawson’s pedal steel guitar brings us into the languid “Kansas City Blues.” We hear frequent Dawson collaborator Hoke blowing tenor sax on “Train I Ride.”
“My Town” is a country blues colored by Dawson’s banjo and Dobro, introducing some political commentary before going full bore on “Light the Flame,” an outstanding track with haunting instrumentation and lyrics like these – “It’s a dark night in the USA, Big Brother done lost his way “ and “There’s a tear in the stripes of the land of the free/And a hole in the bucket that held their peace.” “Time for Me to Go” in its defiant, bittersweet way is the perfect closer.
Danser is an important blues artist, deserving more attention from listeners here in the states. Perhaps her presence on Black Hen/True North will help.
Some additional information: Danser is a nationally award winning scholar and has presented at conferences throughout North America. She combines her performance and education skills to assist community building between marginalized peoples and educational institutions. Toward that end, Danser has been the Artist in Residence at the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts (Calgary), facilitated music and healing at the U-School Program for Marginalized Youth and the Foothills Youth Psychiatric School, and instructs her own Music Education Program across the lifespan from elementary schools to adult instructional camps. Danser’s primary goal is to use music as a space for personal exploration and as a method to strengthen intercultural relationships.
- Jim Hynes