POSTED: DECEMBER 31ST, 1969
No Depression Website
* Posted by Doug Heselgrave on May 14, 2009 at 10:00am
No Depressions Compares Young Canadian Songwriter to Bob Dylan
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Water in the Ground, the new CD from Maritime songstress Catherine Maclellan arrived in my mailbox the same day as Bob Dylan’s Together through life. I’ve been listening to both albums almost non-stop for the last week, and while on the surface there couldn’t be two more different collections of songs, in the end they offer an interesting counterpoint to each other.
Where Dylan eviscerates a world of disappointment, slander and innuendo, Catherine Maclellan describes the universe through a prism of optimism and opportunity where life’s lessons make one richer, free of the unwelcome intrusion of cynicism. Dylan conjures a Hieronymous Bosch junkyard of car wrecks, desperate barflies and women from the wrong side of the tracks, while Maclellan dives and dances through the wonder of a gentle world. Dylan gasps through lost hope, cracked pavement and oily puddles that resonate a delirium tremens sheen as Maclellan describes wistful relationships, drying flowers and the wonders of the natural environment. There is no despair etched in the subtext of Maclellan’s songs as she glides unafraid through experiences that never threaten to cast her out of the reach of redemption. Maclellan’s is a music that greets her with eyes fully open. If Together Through Life explores a world where sleepless dawn comes too early, Water in the Ground is music with the curtains fully drawn, encouraging the daylight to come streaming in.
Water in The Ground is Catherine Maclellan’s third CD and is her most fully realized collection to date. The music itself is open, spacious and imbued with the kind of gentle swing that is reminiscent of early Rickie Jones before the damage set in and she plunged into the dense textures of the Ghostyhead era. Maclellan’s voice is strong, supple, wistful and clear throughout. Her phrasing displays an easy confidence and conviction that elevates her sincere yet often unremarkable lyrics. The sunny and light tone of the instrumentation is sympathetic and appropriate to the songs. There are no lengthy solos or excursions that suggest a dark side residing in the subtext of her melodies. Rather, Catherine Maclellan describes the concerns of a young person coming to terms with life, love and the pursuit of meaning. Hers is a world where people take well-deserved breaks after working hard in the outdoors. Love is easy and free and the consequences of a broken heart are not yet life-threatening.
Whether or not one enjoys Catherine Maclellan’s music depends on where one stands. As a person on the far side of forty, I found myself torn as I listened to Water in the Ground. The melodies Maclellan creates are beautiful and her voice is a joy to hear. She sounds pure, unaffected and free. From the jaunty groove of ‘take a break’ that opens the album, to ‘flowers on your grave’ the poignant remembrance that closes Water in the Ground, listeners are treated to a sincere unaffected voice who describes her unfolding life as she experiences it. Hers is a young spirit and the songs reflect her place and time perfectly. In this sense, her music reflects a world that has long passed me by and I often found it difficult to inhabit and relate to the experiences she describes – except for in a far off distant kind of way. I wanted to experience things with the same immediacy with which she describes them, but I often found her perspective out of my reach. Yet, something in Maclellan’s truthful, uplifting songs has cracked through my grizzled resolve – as much as I feel more affinity to the world Dylan describes in Together Through Life, not one of the tracks on that album has me humming or tapping my feet. Water in the Ground– on the other hand – has had me whistling, singing along and banging the dashboard every time I put it on. Maybe I just don’t know what’s good for me. Catherine Maclellan may just have the key for what ails us. Highly recommended for the young at heart and pure of spirit.
- by Doug Heselgrave (No Depression)