Gulf Coast Records [Release date 14.08.20]
‘Cry Out’ is a high energy album full of heartfelt lyrics, stylistic diversity and booming arrangements that gives Kat Riggins the best possible context for her gritty and soulful vocals.
The album’s arts work almost suggest she is having an outer wordly experience, a visual metaphor perhaps for the way she moves us with her blues.
In fact, ‘Cry Out’ explores rock, blues, boogie, soul, gospel and r&b with hints of southern rock, which all perfectly complement her passionate vocal style and meaningful narratives.
She’s a fiery singer who frequently attacks her songs with the kind of gusto that gives the album its dynamic quality.
Signing with Gulf Coast records is a very significant move, both in terms of raising her profile and working with the guitar playing producer Mike Zito, who consistently pushes her into giving her very best performance on a coherent set of songs.
‘Cry Out’ is the perfect a head on meeting of Zito’s tonal variety – his rock into blues crossover style is the perfect foil for Riggins’s versatility – and her natural ability to get inside the songs and wring out the very last drop of emotion and meaning.
The opening track ‘Son Of A Gun’ is an absolute gem and ignites the album as a whole. It’s powered by a ripping Zito guitar figure and topped by a potent hook that broaches southern rock and delivers stinging sexual politics: “My daddy kicks like a rifle, and he told me to do the same, said don’t take no disrespect or lip and calling out your name. God help those who help themselves and this I understand, I worked twice has hard to be half as much and to be treated as I am.”
The title track is a mellifluous blues with a pounding beat, poignant lyrics and vibrant interwoven guitar and harp playing from Zito and guest Johnny Sansone.
It’s a very good example the high production standards which are all too often missing on blues related albums.
That said, there’s plenty of spark here to match the production polish and Riggins’s energetic approach.
On the hard driving ‘Catching Up’ she steps out of her comfort zone her to nail a hard rock performance on a pounding track that makes the most of the band’s line-up.
Her lyrics provide the key to the album as a whole. She delivers a mix of personal relationship songs, social commentary and occasional moments of self-affirmation on which she happily rocks out.
On ‘Can You See Me Now’ for example, she attacks the song with relish as the booming arrangement evokes the song’s narrative, leaving Zito to add edgy guitar to match her lyrical integrity.
There’s also some further unexpected raunch on the heavy-duty stomp of ‘Wicked Tongue’, which she fills with real vitriol as another special guest Albert Castiglia solo’s with wild abandon and a barbwire tone.
She further reveals herself on ‘Truth’, a song with a straight forward search for honesty that taps into the album’s core message, which she so convincingly universalises on the title track.
She also dig deep for the moving gospel of ‘Heavy’ to which Zito adds nuanced slide support, before its rounded off with children bv’s, as if to emphasise the fact she’s singing about the future.
There’s a lovely flow to the album, while the arrangements perfectly complement her lyrical acumen, as she balances passion, honesty and a soulful delivery to leave her unique mark.
Apart from the familiar theme of ‘No Sale’ and the acappella link of ‘Hand In Hand’, there’s no room for clichés here. Refreshingly, the guitar parts always serve the song while still delivering stinging intensity.
There are also some telling horn arrangements, particularly when the band shifts gear on the shuffle-beat rhythm and organ driven ‘On Its Way’, as a jumping horn section, gives way to a wailing sax break.
There’s also some punchy horns on the tightly wound funk of ‘Meet Your Maker’, another song with a meaningful message. And she finally rounds things off with the elemental feel of ‘The Storm’, on which her feral vocal is beautifully framed by Zito’s echoey squalls.
‘Cry Out’ demands repeated listening if only for the perfect balance of lyrical substance and inspired playing. This album is a real step up for Kat Riggins. Previously known for being a blues campaigner, ‘Cry Out’ pushes her to the forefront of the very genre she so passionately champions. ****½
Review by Pete Feenstra
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