Reviews

Bill Copeland Music News / X

John Cate And The Van Gogh Brothers have released their tenth album, appropriately titled X, the Roman numeral for the ten. There is a lot of down home charm on this appealing blend of roots and country rock. Cate sings with a natural grit and sincerity, and he balances his vocals with plenty of feisty, punchy, unadorned instrumentation. Lyrically, Cate could compete with the best of them. He is succinct and twisty at once.

Cate’s Van Gogh brothers are guitarist Paul Candilore, bassist Clayton Young, and pedal steel-banjo-mandolin player Steve Latt. Drummers include Dave Mattacks, Andy Plaisted, Tauras Biskis, and Anthony J. Resta who produced half of these songs. Producer David Minehan produced the remainder.

Cate and his Van Gogh Brothers open with “California,” an accessible and infectious mid-tempo rocker with a drive similar to The Eagles country-rock fiber. The sunny, breezy vocal of Cate’s contrasts beautifully with edgy assertive guitars. Cate has a way of pushing his voice merrily forward even though it seems less aggressive than the guitar. “California” compels you to listen to the guitars and Cate’s climbing vocal. He keeps finessing his lyrics with the oomph of his gentle lift.

“Doubt” mellows the pace with an airy organ swirl. Cate’s voice seems to lift in a spiral motion, something that pulls itself upward with an internal momentum. There’s a Tom Petty influence in the vocal approach, and it works well in this laid back piece. The power here lies just below the surface and even though the song is not in your face, you know Cate will leave you feeling fully compensated by the end.

After the brief instrumental interlude “Affirmation,” Cate and his boys go straight into “Piece Of Me,” a banjo laced ditty that carries well, again, on that flow of voice that contains just enough grit to make you feel you’re chatting over your backyard fence with your favorite neighbor. “Only Rain,” a potential hit single in a Traveling Wilburys flavor, is mid-tempo bliss, electric guitars providing nifty melodies while Cate finesses his lyrics, his winsome vocal applying itself with gentle aplomb. Cate has a unique timbre that could put him in the company of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, or Tom Petty. The guitars too will win you over here, the six strings seeming to sing and whistle to you in between verses.

Cate showcases his more aggressive vibe on “Gone For Good.” He churns this one out with a tough delivery and the guitar is on fire, sending off sparks of notes that can burn and scorch. Commercially viable, “Gone For Good” has a steady, progressive build up and guitar notes that ring with meaningful zest.

“Georgia And Alfred” is a steady, understated rocker, and that is the secret of Cate’s success. He’s a rocker who knows how to use tasteful self-restraint. Controlling his fire, Cate can architect song structures by, like an engineer, balancing the pressures of each driving instrument and vocal. It’s almost as if the instruments keep one another in check by playing against each other’s strong musical personality. “Georgia And Alfred” features a lead guitar darting through the measures and hitting its bulls eye, mandolin spooning out sweet notes, and a snappy drum beat kicking the horse to pick up its pace.

The architecture of opposing forces is evident through the CD. “Dreamers,” a bristling, crackling instrumental piece with sharp, incisive guitar lines and notes that resonate with meaning, sails aloft a muscular rhythm. Pedal Steel melody winds around the feisty rhythms with flavorful exotic country tinged colors and the entire sound is fulsome and gripping. “All I Want,” an inspired down tempo country rock ditty, gets a fetching vocal and sweet pedal steel treatment that gives it power in its quietness.

“Come To Know Me Well” comes across like a gentle country breeze. The band give it grit and heart and over that platform Cate emits more of his earthy charm. “All In Life Remains,” graced by haunting cello (Kevin Rudder), violin (Steve Latt) and acoustic guitar, is a step or two into the songwriter’s psyche. Cate offers this glimpse into how he feels about what he had to give up to get to where he is today. He makes you feel what he was likely feeling when he wrote this song, and that makes you appreciate it that much more.

“American Night closes out the CD with the singer looking back on his childhood small town. Cate sings it with steadfast honesty, laying bare his feelings for this time in his history, crooning beautifully at a take your time pace, nicely in between the measures set by the solid drum beat.

Cate and his Van Gogh Brothers have come up with something that, if they had an impossibly huge marketing budget, could take its place among the milestones in American country-rock accomplishments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Cate And The Van Gogh Brothers have released their tenth album, appropriately titled X, the Roman numeral for the ten. There is a lot of down home charm on this appealing blend of roots and country rock. Cate sings with a natural grit and sincerity, and he balances his vocals with plenty of feisty, punchy, unadorned instrumentation. Lyrically, Cate could compete with the best of them. He is succinct and twisty at once.

Cate’s Van Gogh brothers are guitarist Paul Candilore, bassist Clayton Young, and pedal steel-banjo-mandolin player Steve Latt. Drummers include Dave Mattacks, Andy Plaisted, Tauras Biskis, and Anthony J. Resta who produced half of these songs. Producer David Minehan produced the remainder.

Cate and his Van Gogh Brothers open with “California,” an accessible and infectious mid-tempo rocker with a drive similar to The Eagles country-rock fiber. The sunny, breezy vocal of Cate’s contrasts beautifully with edgy assertive guitars. Cole has a way of pushing his voice merrily forward even though it seems less aggressive than the guitar. “California” compels you to listen to the guitars and Cate’s climbing vocal. He keeps finessing his lyrics with the oomph of his gentle lift.

“Doubt” mellows the pace with an airy organ swirl. Cate’s voice seems to lift in a spiral motion, something that pulls itself upward with an internal momentum. There’s a Tom Petty influence in the vocal approach, and it works well in this laid back piece. The power here lies just below the surface and even though the song is not in your face, you know Cate will leave you feeling fully compensated by the end.

After the brief instrumental interlude “Affirmation,” Cate and his boys go straight into “Pieces Of Me,” a banjo laced ditty that carries well, again, on that flow of voice that contains just enough grit to make you feel you’re chatting over your backyard fence with your favorite neighbor. “Only Rain,” a potential hit single in a Traveling Wilburys flavor, is mid-tempo bliss, electric guitars providing nifty melodies while Cate finesses his lyrics, his winsome vocal applying itself with gentle aplomb. Cate has a unique timbre that could put him in the company of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, or Tom Petty. The guitars too will win you over here, the six strings seeming to sing and whistle to you in between verses.

Cate showcases his more aggressive vibe on “Gone For Good.” He churns this one out with a tough delivery and the guitar is on fire, sending off sparks of notes that can burn and scorch. Commercially viable, “Gone For Good” has a steady, progressive build up and guitar notes that ring with meaningful zest.

“Georgia And Alfred” is a steady, understated rocker, and that is the secret of Cate’s success. He’s a rocker who knows how to use tasteful self-restraint. Controlling his fire, Cates can architect song structures by, like an engineer, balancing the pressures of each driving instrument and vocal. It’s almost as if the instruments keep one another in check by playing against each other’s strong musical personality. “Georgia And Alfred” features a lead guitar darting through the measures and hitting its bulls eye, mandolin spooning out sweet notes, and a snappy drum beat kicking the horse to pick up its pace.

The architecture of opposing forces is evident through the CD. “Dreamers,” a bristling, crackling instrumental piece with sharp, incisive guitar lines and notes that resonate with meaning, sails aloft a muscular rhythm. Pedal Steel melody winds around the feisty rhythms with flavorful exotic country tinged colors and the entire sound is fulsome and gripping. “All I Want,” an inspired down tempo country rock ditty, gets a fetching vocal and sweet pedal steel treatment that gives it power in its quietness.

“Come To Know Me Well” comes across like a gentle country breeze. The band give it grit and heart and over that platform Cate emits more of his earthy charm. “All In Life Remains,” graced by haunting cello(Kevin Rudder), violin(Steve Latt) and acoustic guitar, is a step or two into the songwriter’s psyche. Cate offers this glimpse into how he feels about what he had to give up to get to where he is today. He makes you feel what he was likely feeling when he wrote this song, and that makes you appreciate it that much more.

“American Night closes out the CD with the singer looking back on his childhood small town. Cate sings it with steadfast honesty, laying bare his feelings for this time in his history, crooning beautifully at a take your time pace, nicely in between the measures set by the solid drum beat.

Cate and his Van Gogh Brothers have come up with something that, if they had an impossibly huge marketing budget, could take its place among the milestones in American country-rock accomplishments.