Cathy Davey’s new album New Forest is out now.
It’s not your typical night in St. Luke’s on the North side of Cork City. We’ve been lucky enough to be here for a number of stellar performances over the last few months, and usually the venue is a rather respectful, restrained, and even sombre environment that is ideal for artists to explore the detailed nuances and intricate textures of their music utilising the beautiful acoustics of the architecturally impressive church. However, tonight is the first night of Cork’s annual Jazz Weekend. It’s a weekend renowned for lots of excellent gigs (which often are completely unrelated to jazz) and for a rather liberal approach to moderation and sobriety, and so proceedings are a little more ‘lively’ than usual.
Supporting Cathy Davey tonight is ELE. A soulful alt pop artist and BIMM graduate from Dublin, she mixes electronica, rap, a touch of balladry, and an ear for a pop chorus during her half hour set. In places her funky, playful performance, and that of her band, calls to mind the work of the funky trip hop outfit Submotion Orchestra, particularly the groove laden ‘Tell Your Mother’. It is fair to say that the crowd are rather boisterous and chatty throughout her show, but this doesn’t seem to phase the young singer as she adeptly works her way through songs full of funk, rhythm, and spots of genuine fragility.
For years I’ve heard alternative rock singer song writer Cathy Davey compared to the likes of PJ Harvey, and Kate Bush. However, for me, these comparisons are lazy ones drawn largely due to her gender. Rather, it seems obvious that there is a far straighter line to be drawn between the likes of Tom Waits’ work and that of the Dublin native. This is even more clear in Davey’s live performance tonight as her sea shanty rock is much more pronounced than on her recently released fourth album New Forest.
The likes of ‘Snitch’ and ‘Bucket’, taken from the aforementioned New Forest, are imbued with an extra punch and swagger live, coming across like a less foreboding and gruff iteration of Waits circa Rain Dogs. Davey is not some kind of Waits copycat though, as her forays into electronica, such as in new track ‘The Pattern’, display. She’s also capable of a dream-like and surreal, near Danny Elfman-like sense of wonder and fragility as is clearly evident from the delicacy and vulnerability of the title track from New Forest.
What the singer-songwriter has most in common with Waits is her willingness to explore and combine unconventional sounds. Her set touches on doo wop, hints at vintage rhythm and blues, and explores restrained and delicate balladry at times. Sometimes all within the same track. Such a fearless, and successful, approach to genre melding and disregard for convention is a rarity. Tonight, we’re lucky to bear witness.
Photography by Shane J Horan.
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