Kaia Kater: Sorrow Bound
Sorrow Bound is the debut album from 21 year old Kaia Kater who sings and plays banjo. It’s an album of traditional Appalachian songs and tunes but there are also four original songs and one traditional Canadian song sung in French. Kater was born in Quebec of mixed Afro-Caribbean ancestry and is now based in Toronto where the album was recorded. She also spends a lot of time in West Virginia where she studies balladry and traditional dance.
One of the outstanding tracks is ‘Moonshiner’ sung unaccompanied with Kater’s voice joined by Melanie Brulee and Jadea Kelly. Kater’s original songs blend seamlessly into the album and two of them ‘When Sorrows Encompass Me Round’ and ‘Southern Girl’ set a very high standard as openers. The first of these was based on a line taken from an old-time song which inspired her to write entirely new lyrics around themes of slavery and longing.
It’s an encouraging sign for roots music in general that there are so many younger musicians who have been inspired to carry on the old traditions and culture while developing them in inventive new ways. Kater’s version of ‘Sun to Sun’ brings to mind the title track of Anna & Elizabeth’s debut album and her banjo playing follows a line which includes the late great Hedy West and more recently Abigail Washburn.
The album was produced by Chris Bartos who adds some baritone electric guitar, fiddle, bass, piano and moog to the vocals and banjo. Kater has been described as an ‘eclectic traditionalist’ and as one of the most promising young performers in the North American folk world. Natural sensitive vocals, poignant songs and superb banjo playing all add up to much more than just a promising debut.
Sorrow Bound is released by Kingswood Records.
Here is a link to Kaia Kater’s music video of ‘Southern Girl’.