Chances are you haven’t heard of Kat Wright. I certainly had not until I spotted her name in the lineup of artists for an upcoming show at City Winery in New York City I’m considering to attend. After listening to By My Side, I’m very impressed about the 31-year-old vocalist from Vermont. While Boston Public Radio’s declaration that she’s “frighteningly good” is pretty bold, it may not be exaggerated.
Backed by a great-sounding seven-piece band that used to be called The Indomitable Soul Band, Wright’s music is reminiscent of Stax and Motown style soul, my kind of music! I think it’s very cool and courageous when a relatively new and young artist embraces what essentially is old-fashioned music recorded during an era that required true craftsmanship, including real singing and real instruments – such a refreshing contrast to the largely soulless, computer-generated stuff that sadly dominates much of today’s charts.
Wright and the band got together in December 2010. They released their debut in 2013, a six-track EP appropriately titled Introducing. According to a Burlington Free Press story, the band then proceeded to record a full-length follow-up record. But they didn’t release it, feeling it didn’t represent the artistic leap they were looking for. Fast-forward to November 2016, when that feat became reality with the appearance of By My Side. Time to get to some music!
The album opens with the title track that immediately sets the tone for the record. The way the horns and the keyboard are played gives it a sound that is retro yet doesn’t come across as dusty – very cool!
Come Dance has a Four Tops Can’t Help Myself type of groove that just makes you want to get up and dance. Again, I dig the horns and the keyboards on that tune.
The Light is an example of a song that sounds less like Stax and Motown and more psychedelic. It’s an illustration of how Wright described the band’s artistic aspirations to the Burlington Free Press. “I don’t want to be stuck in soul-band land,” she said. “For us, soul is the starting place, it’s not the ending place.”
On Who’s Your Fool the sound is back to retro style soul. The singing, the horns, the groove – I just love everything about this tune!
The last track I’d like to highlight is The River, which blends soul and blues elements and features some nice slide guitar playing.
By My Side was recorded in just one week by Joel Hamilton, a co-owner of Studio G in Brooklyn, New York. According to the studio’s website, Hamilton is a four-time Grammy nominated producer and engineer, who has worked with Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello, among other artists. Wright largely credits him for the record. “They let Joel be the boss, they let him be the producer,” Wright stated in the above Burlington Free Press article. “The band really rallied around trust and respect for the producer and making a really beautiful album.”
In addition to Wright, the members of the band include Bob Wagner (guitar), Josh Weinstein (bass), Ezra Oklan (drums), Shane Hardiman (keyboards), Luke LaPlant (baritone saxophone), Jake Whitesell (tenor saxophone) and Dave Purcell (trumpet). Prior to the album’s release, Wright and the band decided to drop “The Indomitable Soul Band” from their name – probably a smart decision, given they apparently don’t want to get boxed into the soul label.
Initially becoming a staple on the Burlington music scene, the band has since branched out and also performed in other Eastern U.S. states. Currently, their website lists three upcoming gigs, which in addition to City Winery (Jan 13) include Jam Cruise (Miami, Fla., Jan 17) and Quai Des Brumes (Montreal, Canada, Feb 17). BTW, another relatively new soul band that excites me, Southern Avenue, will also play City Winery on Jan 13, along with various other artists. That’s how I found out about Wright.
Sources: Wikipedia, Kat Wright Facebook page and website, Burlington Free Press, Studio G Brooklyn website, YouTube