Roads That Cross
Katarina Pejak hails from the Serbian city of Belgrade, where her father ran the local jazz and blues nightclub. Listening to her father’s record collection she became inspired by Tom Waits, Norah Jones, Bessie Smith, Otis Spann and others. She decided she should stretch her classical piano training and her first album, released in Serbia, was 2010’s “Perfume & Luck”. The following year Pejak began a scholarship at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. She was awarded a Songwriting Achievement Award upon graduation in 2014. One of her mentors Professor Dave Limina (who records with Ronnie Earl) stated “Katarina is a truly soulful piano player with a very deep feel and groove steeped in the roots blues tradition. She is able to convey this depth in many styles and genres when performing and composing. I believe she will always be a sought-after and highly successful musician!” Pejak who released several more albums in her home country is currently part of Ruf’s 2019 Blues Caravan and will tour alongside Finland’s Ina Forsman and the Texas born Ally Venable.
“Roads That Cross” is produced, engineered and mixed by Mike Zito at his Marz Studios in Nederland, Texas. The band includes Pejak, or Kat as she prefers to be called, keyboards and vocals; the 2019 Blues Music Award nominee Laura Chavez, guitar; Lonnie Trevino Jr., bass; and Damien Llanes, drums. Zito states “She comes to Texas, songs in hand, to make her debut on Ruf Records. She has emotion, passion and a desperate need for the music to be magical. Her voice is subtle and seductive; her piano playing is on fire. A young woman from Serbia, surrounded by Americans in Southeast Texas, takes the reigns and leads the band into some of the best songs I have heard in a many long time”.
“Nature of My Blues” features a surf-rock beat and some tremolo from Chavez. “Hey babe, you wanna make this work, you ain’t dealin with no down home girl, you wanna love me, forget everything you know”. “Make me your queen and I’ll be your fool, if you get mean you know that I’ll get cruel, I know you wanna win but it’s better if you lose, that is just the nature; that is just the nature of my blues”. This is a fabulous song.
“Moonlight Rider” is a bluesy goodbye “I know I can’t make you stay”; Zito plays guitar and joins in on the background vocal. On “Old Pain” we get to hear Pejak’s seductive vocal as she switches from organ to piano. “Chasing Summer” features an interesting but short piano solo. “Down With Me” features Pejak on organ while Chavez works out on guitar “So if you see me coming close the door, and if you see me coming let me hit the floor…pretty baby, there’s somewhere else I have to be”.
“She’s Coming After You” is a groove with a rumba beat. Pejak’s intonation is perfect as she sings “She looks just like the devil’s daughter, walks like a baroness, wild as the wind and as young as the morning dew, I better step aside ‘cause she’s coming after you…I can only say goodbye cause she’s coming after you”.
The title track boasts the lyric “It’s a joke that time likes to play on hearts babe, laughing through its old crooked jaws. Roads that cross have a way of parting or else they wouldn’t have crossed at all”.
On “The Harder You Kick” Pejak sings “Now every good man is just too much work that I end up regretting when I get hurt, the harder you kick, the deeper you sink in the quick sand”. Pianist Pejak shows that she can mesmerize even when performing solo.
Pejak reflects on her originals “I didn’t realize until after making the album, but most of these songs are about good byes”. Selected covers include Joni Mitchell’s “Sex Kills” and Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues”.
Zito says it best “She’ll make you think, she’ll make you cry. By the end of this record, she’ll have you in the palm of her hand. For Katarina, this is only the beginning…” After listening you will agree; Pejak stands at her own personal crossroads ready to step into the express lane.