CatsMelvin’s album, America’s Beautiful Waltz, is a rather cynical look at contemporary America, from the perspective of a Lincoln, Nebraska band. With a warbly lead vocal, CatsMelvin provides Americana-y commentary on our modern world.
Two songs in, they sing how “All We Have Is Fear.” The line is repeated over and over, in order to fully make its point. In times past, we Americans were told we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Nowadays, though we’re said to have just fear, and nothing else. That’s not a very optimistic outlook. Another song, which rumbles to an old-time rock and roll groove with plenty of enjoyable electric guitar work, is called “Whole World Is Smoking.” This is not a pro marijuana song, nor is it an anti-tobacco tune. Instead, it’s an observation of a world that’s on fire. The music for this one will make you feel good, even if its lyrics won’t.
All this album’s music is quite good, too. There is keyboard as well as plenty of electric guitar. Guitar powers most of the music. Stylistically, a lot of these tunes carry with them a retro feel. This isn’t edgy modern music. Rather, it draws upon time-tested rock & roll values. It’s a bit classic rock, with a healthy serving of roots rock and Americana.
Another one, titled “Escape In Every Way,” incorporates a bit of a reggae groove into its overall mix. In addition to the unsteady lead vocal, this track also includes a soulful female backing vocal. Just what this ‘escape’ refers to in its title, as well as on the chorus, is not entirely clear. It does, however, highlight a pattern of repeating the title line in the chorus over and over again. It’s something CatsMelvin does a lot on this album.
“It’s Magic” sounds just a bit like early Boston music in places. You might say it’s Boston meets Dire Straits, in fact. No matter what the music sounds like, though, it may just be this act’s unique lead singing that may strike you the most. The singing stands out on most every song. This track includes a really psychedelic instrumental section during its outro. It’s a mixture of keyboards, organ, and drums, and sounds like much of this song part may have been improvised in the studio. Perhaps the group was shooting for a little studio magic with it. Then with one called “Marching On,” CatsMelvin gives us the laziest sounding march music one can imagine. This country-ish tune is by no means motivational marching music. Perhaps it’s marching music for couch potatoes. Marching music for folks with a lot of time on their hands?
The album finishes up with the one word titled “Words,” which brings back the soulful female backing vocals. This added singing sounds a little like call and response singing found on Aretha Franklin’s best recordings. Lyrically, it talks about the dangers in what we say when speaking. Anyone that ever repeated, ‘Words will never hurt me,” as a kid, now knows well how wrongheaded that phrase was then, and is now.
It can be tough to pin down CatsMelvin’s style, which is always a good thing. Whatever you want to call it, though, it’s both honest and real throughout.