Saturday, October 5, 2013

Catya's Trio

It's been years since I've visited this blog.
It's not that I haven't been supporting local live music.
It's not that I haven't felt the urge to write these past 4 years.
And it's not that I haven't seen musicians worthy of writing.
I stopped because I wanted only to write about music that inspires me. And this became difficult because I've become friendly with some of those musicians and was afraid that, somehow, writing a blog-review would muddy the friendship-waters. And I was worried that my personal relationship would color my objectivity. Years have gone by, friendships have solidified and, with time and perspective, I now feel that I can honestly and without prejudice write about friends. Today I cruised to Foster's Cheese Haus in Foster, Wisconsin to listen to Catya's Trio play an increasingly rare gig. I was as captivated today as I was when I first saw them 5 years ago.

I met Catya as The Jones Tones' bass player. We were at the Sheeley House in Chippewa Falls when David Jones and his band played that venue regularly. David gave Catya the stage at the end of the second set and she blew the house away with her song of forbidden love, “Kiss Me Like You Mean It.” Her voice soared over the crowd and stilled beer-loosened tongues: she had a story to tell and we listened. I found myself holding my breath as her voice sailed up and up and exhaling as it plummeted, all low and sultry. I was electrified. She sang my lonely heart. She sang secret love-dreams that I—a stable, middle-aged woman—was loath to acknowledge. Though I'd never heard the song before, I knew it. And it ended with a wonderful little twist, like some of my favorite novels. This is one of Catya's talents: her original songs are emotionally familiar. They are complex and accessible, smart and simple. They echo unspoken desires and feelings. They are courageous in their honesty and—again like a great novel—they let the listener fill in the spaces: “...Kiss me like you mean it/show me the hunger in your eyes/and when it's late/late at night/won't you think of me sometimes.”

“Kiss Me Like You Mean It” is the title track of Catya's new CD and while it's a great song, it's not the only great song on the disc. All the tracks are gripping; Catya tips her hat to the classic blues form but brings her own brand of originality with intricate lyrics and unexpected musical turns. Her music stands alone. It needs no decoration to prop it up, nothing else to reinforce it. And so it is the richest icing on an incredible cake when she is joined—both live and on some of the tracks on the CD—by Sue Orfield and Randy Sinz.

Anyone familiar with our local music scene knows Sue Orfield and her partner Randy Sinz. These two musicians are prolific and Sue's original music is awesome. One of my dirty little secrets is that I'm a lyrics gal; I just didn't “get” purely instrumental music. Sue changed that. She first captured me with her generosity of spirit--clearly displayed on stage, then her energy and obvious joy, then her skill and talent on the saxophone and finally for her songwriting. I know, I know, I got it backwards, but we all learn in our own ways. She has three original CDs: “Boink,” “Nobody's Looking” and her newest CD's title track “Fight The Good Fight” written in honor of a friend who died of cancer. I recommend all of them. My favorite songs are “Sway,” “After The Fall” “Two Cats Named Bob” “Brass Monkey” “Slide Over Baby” and “Deja Blue.”

Randy is a music veteran and has been playing locally for more years than I've been in the Midwest. He's in a bunch of bands, including Rada-Dada (accompanied by Sue), Ranger Rudy and Swinging Wingtips, and most recently (though they've been playing together for decades) with Gregg Wheeler and John Lynch as a yet-unnamed trio. Randy's voice is pure, strong and true, and he is skilled on both the upright and electric bass. Both Sue and Randy host a monthly, unofficial open mic for local musicians at Foster's Cheese Haus as Two Rivers.

This afternoon I waltzed into Foster's Cheese Haus, a venue that might seat 60 people, and settled into a chair not 10 feet from where these three musicians, Catya, Sue and Randy, worked their spell.

I gratefully succumbed to their magic as Catya sang two originals: “Good Coffee Or Good Beer” a generous and bittersweet ode to her past marriage (“You left me a fool/but that don't change my mind/that time I spent with you/was something so fine”) and “Just Can't Stop,” a song of unrequited love (“Ain't it a wonder/isn't it strange/lightening and thunder/it never rains”) as well as various covers by the likes of Theresa James and Billie Holliday.

I wasn't raised in the Midwest. I'm not really from anywhere. But I came to the heartland from the East Coast which is where I caught my live-music jones. And I know that if this trio were based in New York or Washington DC or Maryland they'd be demanding $50 a ticket. And they'd pack the house. It is my observation that we in the Chippewa Valley take good live music for granted. We don't know—really know—the talent we have here. My only regret for this afternoon is that I didn't get there in time to catch the first set. Go see Catya's Trio. And don't make the same mistake I did: see the whole show.
You can buy Catya's CD at

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