Kaia Kater: Rolling Stone’s 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know
From an unapologetic cowboy singer to a dazzling chanteuse-wordsmith.
Sounds Like: Old-time Appalachian banjo tunes — both traditional and newly crafted — with sobering, honest lyrics exploring all-too-current themes including poverty and racism
For Fans of: Gillian Welch, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens
Why You Should Pay Attention: A 22-year-old Québec, Ontario, native of Afro-Caribbean descent, Kater graduates from the first Appalachian Program at West Virginia's Davis & Elkins College this month. However, she already writes and performs with the skill of a folk-circuit veteran, penning such startling lines as this one that opens the title track of her debut LP, Nine Pin (named for a square-dance formation): "These clothes you gave me don't fit right, the belt is loose and the noose is tight/ Got drunk out looking for a fight, I'm soft and heavy as the night."
She Says: "I think songwriting prowess really comes through when one lyric can mean so much. I'm reminded of an incredible Canadian musician, and one of my favorite poets, Amelia Curran, who has a song called 'Time, Time.' One of the lines she sings is: 'Now that we're adding up all of the time that it took / you only promised me pages / I promised you books.' To me, it's a song about the futility of time and how it's the only thing you can't get back — which means that time itself, something we take for granted so often, is more powerful than anything. There's something magical about that type of writing."
Hear for Yourself: The plaintive, mesmerizing "Rising Down," which, with its delicate touch of her clawhammer banjo, muted trumpet, upright bass and subtle electric guitar, conjures a quiet, yet powerful storm. Stephen L. Betts