Stratford, Ontario-based indie-folkster Cat Clyde has been on the rise since releasing debut L.P. Ivory Castanets in 2017. 2019’s Hunters Trance followed, elevating the rawness of Clyde’s songwriting and taking us deeper on her journey ahead of the release of this year’s Down Rounder, the Canadian’s third studio record allowing her to lean into her Métis heritage with single Papa Took My Totems, the song finding Clyde reflecting on the ravaging effects of colonialism, the state of the environment and masculine-dominated society.
Ahead of the record’s release, Clyde has been hitting the road on both sides of the Atlantic, supporting American folksters Bonny Light Horseman as part of Celtic Connections, but more extensively with Lissie as she tours the U.K. and Europe in support of her Carving Canyons L.P. And that is where we find her tonight, in a slot after opener (and Lissie backing vocalist) Hannah Ashcroft and ahead of Lissie herself at Camden’s famed Koko venue.
Hunters Trance blues tune So Heavy kicks off proceedings, it’s slow groove leading to a bursting crescendo, Clyde on electric guitar accompanied by drums and heavy bass. “I keep picking the scab of an old wound, just to watch it bleed” she sings to a hushed Koko crowd who are stunned into whoops as she exercises her voice to it’s gorgeous peak.
“I just released a record last week, which is very exciting” she gushs of Down Rounder. “This song is off that record” she continues, introducing Everywhere I Go, the upbeat folksy tune encouraging the North London crowd to tap along as percussions flips between drumsticks chattering together vs. a full cascade.
1950s-tinged Mystic Light from her latest L.P. has Clyde taking Koko on a swirling journey before a classic slow bluesy sound emanates from Clyde’s guitar before moving into a fast-paced mad dash courtesy of debut record cut The Man I Loved Blues, “When I find that mountain breeze, I know I will find peace” she sings, the three piece making a tremendous sound that would be comfortably at home in a blues bar, Honky Tonk or a Camden venue on a Tuesday night, apparently. “Now we’re cookin’” she laughs, the audience engagement clearly increasing with each tune.
A slow blues groove kicks off debut record tune Mama Said, it’s four-chord progression and rhythm the very same as the 1988 Black Francis-penned Pixies’ hit Where Is My Mind?, Clyde strumming a curious four-stringed tenor guitar while her bassist takes over lead guitar.
“We’ve been on the road with Lissie for about two weeks now and it’s just been a total blast, I’m really grateful to be out here with her and her lovely crew” she shares. “I would like to take a quick second to introduce the boys in the band”, she continues deadpan, stopping there and grinning as her drummer and bassist cross the stage behind her and shake hands, a ripple of laughter emanating from the crowd.
New record cut Papa Took My Totems is next, Clyde continuing with her tenor guitar while bass duties are resumed behind her, “Papa took my words he didn’t wanna hear the sound of my voice speaking choice” she offers atop a rousing beat.
More from Down Rounder is offered next with Eternity, the folksy storytelling tune, enchanting the 1,400 strong crowd before Clyde dives into slow-drive Hunters Trace tune All The Black, anther shimmering example of Clyde’s stunning voice atop simple strummed guitars, her accentuated high notes eliciting squeals from the otherwise hushed crowd.
“Thank you all for sharing this moment with me” Clyde offers before closing out her half hour set with sophomore record tune The River, it’s chord progression reminiscent of Ben E. King classic Stand By Me.
While possibly somewhat derivate in places, it’s clear to see Cat Clyde’s unique offering in the increasingly growing folk, blues and roots space. And just how captivated tonight’s audience became, given their underlying excitement for the main act, it won’t be long before Koko and similar venues are sold out with Clyde down as the headliner.
Cat Clyde rounds out her European run supporting Lissie at Amsterdam’s Melkweg on 3rd March.
Live review and photography of Cat Clyde @ Koko by Kalpesh Patel on 28th February 2023.