For a lot of mainstream critics, the problem with folk music today is that most of the quirky, simple attributes that made up the foundation of the genre seem to have given way to digitalized vanity, feigned passion for social issues and conceited attitudes within the scenes that once championed a now-fading sense of artistic ethics.
But all of that withstanding, not all hope is lost. We can all be grateful that independent music is a fire that is burning stronger than ever in 2018, thanks largely to the advent of social media and the internet age, and we’re able to find the treasure among the infinite mountains of trash. My most recent find is a new LP out of the great white north, Free Wheelin’, by bluesy country rocker Cathy Hutch, a woman who not only holds the spirit of traditional folk music true to her heart, but translates that spirit into thrilling melodies for all of us to enjoy in this 11 song masterpiece. I’ve listened to a lot of albums this year from various artists across numerous genres, and I can say without a doubt that Free Wheelin’ sticks out as one of the more memorable listening experiences I’ve had thus far.
It isn’t just the captivating yet plainly practical poetry that Cathy Hutch merges with her solid blues beats and countrified twang that turns me on when I listen to Free Wheelin’; there’s so much more to this record than meets the eye. I’m not the only person who is noticing, either. Recently Hutch had the chance to open for none other than Carroll Baker, the undisputed queen of Canadian country music and favorite daughter of Nova Scotia, and Baker was so taken with Hutch’s talent and soulful singing that she invited her on stage to close out the evening. There’s something so spellbinding about Cathy Hutch that makes this new record, and all of her work to date, really infectious and memorable.
“Carry You Along,” the first song on the record, is without a doubt a theme song for Cathy Hutch’s musical persona. Fun, energetic, stylishly aware of how to make blues rock really sizzle, a passionate and motivating stanza that preps us for a chorus that ignites the room on fire and invites us to dance amongst the flames. This couldn’t be country music, right? After all, country music isn’t supposed to rock this hard is it? Hutch’s songwriting doesn’t particularly care what you think the limits are or should be. She’s breaking all the rules and it sounds utterly smashing. Even when she takes it slow and gets a little smoky on tracks like the earnest “Sweet Dave,” the vibe is still electric, and the movement is unstoppable. You know you’ve struck gold in the studio when every track feels like a single, and that is very much the case with Free Wheelin’. This is the kind of album that folk music needs right now, and more importantly, the kind of record that country fans truly deserve.