Nothing really prepares your heart and spirit or the first time you hear Catie Waters. Her perfectly titled Trippin N’ Rhythm debut Colors rolls like an invitation into an otherworldly musical realm where rootsy and sensual expression takes wing among ethereal and transcendent hopes and dreams. Many other young, deeply talented singers are given the designation of being an “old soul,” but Catie’s not simply blessed with warm, deeply lived vocals in a young person’s body.
As we listen, we know intuitively that, despite still being a young adult, she has clearly survived through many ordeals and conquered a lot of personal demons – with optimism to spare despite so many reasons not to be, as she sings exuberantly on the collection’s closing track, the dynamic clapalong affirmation, “Feelin’ Alright.”
With a powerful, multi-faceted musical vision guided along by producer and co-writer Michael Broening – a Grammy winning keyboardist renowned for his work with legendary artists like George Benson and the late Al Jarreau. – Catie takes us through an incredible amount of emotional terrain to create her deeply intimate, silky yet often gritty but ultimately spiritually uplifting journey that taps into influences from the soundtrack of the singer/songwriter’s boldly embraced life – including classic R&B, neo-soul, sexy jazz and feisty funk.
The album’s lead single, the hypnotic, mid-tempo romance “Moonlight” perfectly reflects the simmering cool of Catie and Broening’s musical chemistry, backed by the dreamy caress of her own backing vocals and just a touch of old school guitar (and then a sizzling solo) by Michael Clowes. Thematically, it finds Catie feeling like she’s on the verge of finding that long elusive lasting love. When she catches that moonlight, she’s truly “feelin’ infinite.”
In addition to the exclusively Broening helmed tracks, Catie also works with Ben Bohorquez and Caleb McCampbell, co-writers and co-producers of “Feelin’ Alright,” the soothing and swaying, forward thinking ballad “Sanctuary” and the sultry, painfully questioning roller coaster of “Wicked.” With those two tunes, Catie artfully reminds us of both aspects of love – the place where we find comfort and peace and a darker realm where sorrow, anger and misunderstanding can take hold. She’s clearly been through it all, and fearless about sharing all aspects of the journey.
Prince’s former trumpet player Phil Lassiter is co-writer and producer of “Get Me Golden,” a punchy, sassy old school gospel inflected R&B joint song that finds the singer seeking shards of light through the darkness. Whether she’s seeking it from the divine or a specific person in her life is anyone’s guess - and that indeed seems to be the point. Another special guest and collaborator on Colors is keyboardist and Trippin N’ Rhythm labelmate Nicholas Cole, who plays a rousing Hammond B-3 organ on “Mountain Sound,” an wild and energizing five and a half minute trip to church paying sweet homage to her upbringing in the Ozarks region of Arkansas. It’s that divine light shared in retrospect.
Considering the kaleidoscope of inner feelings she brings forth on Colors, it’s fascinating to hear Catie say of the collection, “The songs on Colors are my interpretations of people and experiences I have had in my own life, a personal collection of stories and timelines I have been through in the past year.” There’s a sense that she has been through many painful challenges along the way, but that she’s determined and unafraid to conquer her fears and hit the proverbial brick wall a few times on her way to achieving blissful breakthroughs.
Her voice is simply an inviting tool that allows her to let us in on all the lessons she learns – perhaps so we don’t have to go through the pain ourselves – and get us through to the encouragement phase. In her world, the struggles are real and intense, yet never forever. Love faith in the future always break through and endure. So while she gives us wistful moments of loneliness while looking at the “California Stars,” infuses her sassiness with real confusion and anger on the feisty opening track “Crazy” and is just downright confused about the path ahead on “Colors,” she also offers clear minded lessons and advice about the danger of chasing “Sunsets” – and the fact that you can indeed find moments of sanctuary looking to the “spirit in the sky.”
Catie Waters is an incredibly sultry and seductive singer, but an even greater songwriter and storyteller whose truth has many facets and emerges in a multitude of “Colors.” Her debut isn’t just the best urban jazz influenced vocal album of the year – it’s one of the great musical events of 2020.
Listen to Colors here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4vqeKQZGYYk3yhToOg61Ek