After agreeing to bring her band to a gig, Cait Jones suddenly found herself needing a band. A few calls to friends, and a successful show later and Cait and the Critters were born. More than three years later the band can be regularly heard at New York’s classiest venues for live music and dining, including The Flatiron Room and Radegast Hall Biergarten, as well as unique Swing and vintage events around the Northeast.
They’ve also paused to record two EPs. Their first self-titled studio album, Cait and the Critters, captures them in a small band-big vocals late ’40s vein sure to please at those restaurant gigs. Space is given for the band. Tyler Kaneshiro on trumpet stands out for his contributions accenting Cait’s vocal line. “You and the Night and the Music” is played with appropriately romantic backing on guitar and drums. It is the highlight of the disc. Other tracks include, “The Dummy Song,” “Sentimental Journey,” and “Honeysuckle Rose.”
Cat’n Around, released in April, taps into a current of Western Swing running through the Bohemian revivalists in New York and elsewhere. Cait’s take is blusier than the Bob Wills version and absorbs an American Songbook approach to vocal delivery. The only real twang on these tracks is the addition of Ellie Goodman on fiddle. I have a mountain of ’40s and ’50s 78 RPM records by nearly forgotten (but worthy) artists with a similarly tempered approach.
“Bill Bailey” is the most Western Swing of the tracks. It also highlights Cait’s vocal dexterity adding a slight and convincing country accent. Alec Spiegelman, who plays reeds on both EPs, also arranges a slowed down “Cow Cow Boogie” which while hitting that same cowboy vein is closer to a standard blues. He is the only band member back for the second album, Gordon Au notably replaces Kaneshiro on trumpet. “Dragging My Heart Around” swings in a comfortably timeless style. Both albums are light to the touch and it is no wonder the band appeals to restaurant bookers.
The two most successful cuts on Cat’n Around are both originals written by Jones herself. Both arranged by Spiegelman, “Queer” swings like hell and stands its musical ground along with the deft lyrics; and “Hoi An,” a charmingly romantic song named for a destination city in Vietnam, is so stunning, so timeless, I had a hard time convincing myself it wasn’t a recovered gem of American songwriting. Picture Kay Starr singing “Bonaparte’s Retreat.” If nothing else seek out this track. Cait Jones is to be encouraged to write more in whatever genre.
This Review Initially Appeared in a longer column titled Women Take The Lead.
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