Banner/album artwork by Sarah Jones
Today sees the release of an album that has been long in the making and heavy in the expectations. Folks, Chris Bathgate’s “Salt Year” exceeds expectations and makes the wait seem trivial. Yes, Slowcoustic loves this album.
As you probably already know, I am a huge fan of this Michigan artist (as you can see from the top right of this page, Mr. Bathgate is a ‘Slowcoustic Essential’). As you also probably know, his new album drops today and folks it is a must-buy. The album has 11 tracks officially (2 bonus tracks from the bandcamp/chrisbathgate.org page only) and essentially there is not a weak track among them. If I had to describe the music, I would say it was Michigan Folk – but that doesn’t mean anything to a lot of you as it is my personal take. Chris Bathgate was the first artist I truly connected a location with for some reason and his combination of strings, horns and vocal delivery just say Michigan to me now. The sound is almost rock-a-billy at half speed, it is horns with piano, it is electric guitar played like acoustic and Bathgate’s ebb and flow delivery. Kills me every time.
I think it is the combination of everything in these songs that make it sounds soo natural, you wonder why every band doesn’t combine horns with electric guitar and banjo! The album has a mix of outright ballads (Salt Year, Poor Eliza, Fur Curled on the Sad Road) along with more upbeat tracks that flex a bit of the rousing live show he is known for (No Silver, Levee, In the City). The album is described by Quite Scientific (Bathgate’s label) as “…his most beautifully bruised work to date” and I think this is a perfect description of the album. It is not a light affair in anyway – but while being personal and about love lost and realization of how you loved it isn’t necessarily tears in your bear music. This is music that knows of hurt, but isn’t afraid to confront it and come out the other side.
For a bit of scope, take the description of the term Salt Year itself to get an idea of the overall theme of this record:
a. A song about seeing a person you were once in love with, and are no longer in love with, after not seeing them for a very long time.
b. (“The Salt Year”) roughly Sept 2008 to Sept 2010
c. An album about Love versus Time.
The listener fells like Bathgate is caught between wanting a somber affair and having to go through catharsis – this helps the album as while it is a down-tempo album overall, it chooses it’s moments to bombard you with it’s own power. Like the above indication of Bathgate’s ‘ebb & flow’ vocals, his song-crafting does just the same. You will be taken along, eased down with calming vocals and delicate acoustics and then thrust upward with full band to embrace the song before falling back into itself once again. Songs like Levee, Eliza and Own Design really feature this style of his.
As I can fall short on flowery descriptions to describe the music as it deserves to be described, let’s just leave it at me not being able to recommend this album enough. It has the chops to stand and deliver with the best of them and has some of the most poignant ballads around, the one-two punch as it seems. This one is a must, Best New Music.
Pick up this album via the Chris Bathgate Store
Find our more on everything Salt Year on the newly launched website