Kaia Kater isn't just an excellent banjo player. She's a force to be reckoned with. When I started this blog almost five years ago (!) I promised my readers that I would feature artists who sounded like their lives depended on their music. Kater is very much in this category. Kater's first album, Sorrow Bound, established Kater's standing as a faithful scholar of roots music. Ninepin proves Kater's mastery of the form by writing songs whose lyrics are immediate and whose feel is timeless.
Kater's power comes from her delivery. These songs are treated with great urgency -- as they should be, considering their frank discussions of poverty and race in North America (Kater is Canadian, though the music itself is inspired by Appalachia.) Kater's musical accompaniment -- her elegant banjo plucking, muted trumpets, and sparse strings -- give these ballads a somber elegance that is rare to achieve. Nine Pin is unlike anything you'll hear this year, and it should be given the attention necessary to appreciate with as much thoughtfulness as Kater put into creating it.
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