Having earned the moniker, “Canada’s Swamp Blues Queen,” Edmonton’s Kat Danser lives up to the title with yet another golden album. One Eye Open, Danser’s sixth release, continues her collaboration with guitarist/producer Steve Dawson, releasing the album on his Black Hen Music label, with distribution handled by True North Records.
Danser’s lifetime work is an exploration of the sounds and culture of the south, her living and studying, immersing and infusing parlayed into her musical creation. Danser has collected nuggets along the way to bring to life in what is perhaps her finest writing to date. There’s a looser sound to this album, as though the artist has given herself permission to step out and released herself from an invisible bond.
Marked by sophisticated lyrics and rich arrangements, the album features Danser’s original songs and two carefully selected standards. All have been woven into a lyrical gem of an album. Recorded remotely due to the times, there is still a “live” feel to the album, a presence that oozes a sense of immediacy. The album features a core trio of Dawson (guitars), Jeremy Holmes (bass) and Gary Craig (drums) and a horn section of Dominic Conway, Jeremy Cook and Malcolm Aiken.
“Do What I Do” kicks off the album and underscores the sense that Danser has freed herself from any preconceived notion of what “should” be, its easy approach and relaxed vocals honest and genuine. This track exudes fun and laissez faire. In keeping with that sentiment, Frenchman Street Shake is an observation of the exuberance and decadence of the New Orleanian spirit, a commentary on the characters who populate the fabled street. The title track, “One Eye Open”, deftly portrays the edgy, angry feel that dominates the streets in 2020 as the cries for change roar. “Please, Don’t Cry” is a tender love song that holds the listener close as Danser stretches her vocal range and showcases Dawson’s slide guitar. The two covers, 1920’s Gus Cannon song “Bring It With You When You Come”, and Jessie May Hemphill’s “Get Right Church”, fit seamlessly in the story Danser weaves, while “Mi Corazon”, sung in Spanish, features the horn section in this Cuban flavoured offering.
Overall, this album perfectly describes Danser’s evolution as an artist, with a colourful tale of the cultural fabric of the southern US all the way to Cuba. Recommended for any lover of blues and roots music. (Cindy McLeod)