There is a reason why Peter Katz’ CD “Still Mind Still” was Juno nominated for album of the year, and also a reason why it didn’t win.
If you are looking for an album with monster hooks, with dramatic highs and lows, and with radio friendly hits, don’t buy this CD or see this show. If you want to hear an artist who cares more about the art of music than the business of music, you might want to check this understated musician out.
Some of you who know me or have read me before might be thinking “Gee, Heavyfeather, are you going EMO on us?” While this album, full of melancholy and romantic themes, might fit into that label if the music or poetry were lame, I am, against my own normal predilections, giving this gentle, soulful album my full endorsement.
Now I would not be the first to endorse Peter Katz. His resume includes a CBC Rising Star award (I’m sure that’s soon to be cut…but that’s another story), Indie Week Grand Prize winner, Emerging Artist of the Year – Canadian Folk Music Awards, and many more. He has also performed with the likes of Bedouin Soundclash, Dan Mangan and Garth Hudson (The Band).
I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Mr. Katz about his newest album, “Still Mind Still”. Life as a musician who tours Europe and North America is hectic and finding time for song writing problematic, but local songster guru and album producer Rob Szabo challenged Peter to write a song a week and send it to him, even while on tour. This is, to say the least, a challenging proposal, though possible with modern technology, and some of those “homework assignments” are proudly presented on this album.
The album was made in a solitary cabin, away from the frenetic life of a road musician, with Rob Szabo. But Katz made it clear that he loves playing live and getting his music out to a live audience. And what music it is. It’s not your typical thematic fare about girls or partying or gangster etiquette. Peter Katz identifies himself as a songwriter, but some singer-songwriters hit you over the head with messages and emotions. He has a subtle feel and flavour that is missing from…well, just about anyone on the charts. Katz lists some of his influences as Dylan, Joni and Cohen, but I think he is sometimes emotionally even more quiet and introspective than these giants in the songwriter pantheon.
“Still Mind Still”, the song, not the CD, was written to quiet the restless mind of a friend. It has a lullaby quality (and lyric) that does what the title says it will. “Thunder in Chest” is the first single, but I think “It’s Just the Night” has the best groove on the album. “Dear“ is my favourite ballad, about a shy guy musing about his love interest.
Katz said “This Town” was the most difficult tune to lay down, but it sounds like a gem in its simplicity and easy descriptive style. Sometimes you have to work hard to make it look easy. To paraphrase the songwriter, “The duck looks calm, but its feet are working very hard beneath the surface; no one would or should know how hard.” “It Was You” is a reminiscence of past love on a lazy day. Like I said, this is not tween fodder or pop radio fluff. The entire CD is rich with evocative themes and deeper substance than a “hit record” is allowed to have. Katz defends this admirably. He is in the music “business” to reach out to and touch his audience and to make music he is proud of…a rare quality in these times. And highly applaudable.
Katz plays the Starlight on Thursday, April 26.
If you are looking for a CD to play while preparing to go out on the town, no. Even if you are looking for music for the romantic portion of your evening, again, no. If you want to relax, contemplate, meditate, and be swept into a quieter place than this bustling world normally offers, Peter Katz’ “Still Mind Still” is the remedy for the common “wtf” of everyday life.
So, to conclude, that is why Peter Katz didn’t win the Juno. Thank god.