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HAT FITZ AND CARA Wiley Ways Audio Magnet/Guitar Nine (2012)

Hat Fitz And Cara

Hat Fitz and Cara comprise the unique hubbie and wife duet of Australian guitarist/vocalist guitarist Hat Fitz and Northern Irish multi instrumentalist and vocalist Cara Robinson. With Hat Fitz on resonator and banjo and Cara doubling on drums, flute, whistle washboard and vocals this is an album created with an independent spirit and original songs that offer a new take on traditional pre-war hill country and delta blues, mixed with Aussie folk and Celtic jigs.

And while the duo may benefit from bathing in the refracted media friendly image of Seasick Steve (he's apparently also using a drummer now), Hat Fitz and Cara are anything but mere copyists. They are a bold unique musical hybrid born of their respective colourful backgrounds and they are intrinsically bound by their new found creative collaboration.

'Wiley Ways' is the kind of album that would stand out no matter what the prevailing musical trends. Put simply, Hat Fitz and Cara have the songs, the musical ability, the drive and the self belief to offer something refreshingly vibrant and new, while the rest of the contemporary music scene can take a deep breath and try and catch up.

'Wiley Ways' is music from the soul, with lyrics that reflect two individual lives lived to the full and a new found union still to be fully explored. The songs are full of histo-biographical lyrics and bluesy musical roots that anchor the music rather than dominate it.

From the opening track 'Power'- a resonator/flute and handclap driven live outing - Hat Fitz and Cara go back to their blues roots for their songs and dig deep for the requisite spark of their performance. It's an aptly titled song that could just as easily refer to their own life force as to the indefatigable music that they play.

Cara's starts the song with a sprightly whistle and effortlessly explores the vocal range of a gospel singer as Hat Fitz adds rhythmic lines with his resonator and a rasping vocal bottom end to complete a dynamic start to a wonderful album

'Wiley Ways' is an organic album overseen by the marvellous Australian roots rocker Jeff Lang who brings balance, pacing and a melange of sounds to a blues rooted album that takes its meaningful point of departure from Cara's emotive and resonant vocal on 'Eliza Blue' - a heartfelt tale about her ancestry,

'Absent Eye' is a gentle meditative piece that features Fitz making the most of his growling voice with extended vocal phrasing to remind us of his previous solo career, while the duo slip into the mantra style chorus of 'Company Underground' over some wild slide

They even bring a sense of irony to bear on the relationship song 'Play Me Something New', on which they reference the likes of Son House, Blind Willy McTell Bo Carter, offering an almost parallel commentary on what they are trying to achieve with their own music. As with this album as a whole, it's an essential updated retro style with contemporary appeal.

Cara adds another biographical tale about the search for her true father on 'Go Daddy' which owes more to folk than blues and the duo explore a minimalist approach on 'Tarni Lee' before an insistent Otis Taylor style blues vamp on the title track.

The variety of influences are further revealed on the early Beefheart style blues of 'Hold My Hand' and the rollin' tumbling, train-time rhythm and brusque vocal of 'Red Rattler' on which Hat Fitz is part Beeheart and Wolf with an echo of a Mark Bolan wail.

The recurring Celtic influence fills the flute led 'Sine' which gives the album a belated kick, while Cara rounds off a beautifully conceived and intuitively recorded album with the banjo led ballad 'Rusty River'. The album may be full of 'Wiley Ways', but it is exciting, spontaneous, young and heart and settles for nothing less than your full attention.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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