Cathy Hutch is back!
Country music, like many other genres in the larger umbrella of popular music, has often served as a notable flashpoint for a lot of the political and social unrest that has been present during various times in history. Just a little more than a decade and a half ago, the United States’ foray into the War on Terror was essentially soundtracked by a legion of Nashville songwriters eager to support the war effort but unfortunately put into the precarious position of being too closely associated with the American conservative movement (thus alienating half of their intended record-purchasing audience). This isn’t an isolated occurrence. We look to our artists, our actors, our musicians to guide us through the storm when it gets to windy out and we can’t see our way through the lightning and fog. It’s a scary world out there sometimes. Right now, feminism is finally getting the sort of mainstream platform that it has collectively worked tirelessly towards for over a century. In this movement we are being made privy to some truly sensational female songwriters, performers and producers that genuinely have a shot at changing the game for future generations of female artists for the better. One standout on the Canadian side of the border that’s caught my attention most recently is none other than Fredericton, New Brunswick’s own Cathy Hutch, a phenomenally gifted singer and songwriter whose new record Free Wheelin’ pushes the limits of country music to revolutionary territory and brings with it some great rallying cries for the contemporary revolution in equalitarianism that we’re witnessing today.
Cathy Hutch isn’t your typical country singer. Actually, she’s not even your typical musician. In a collection of songs that could sit perfectly fine next to any of your favorite classic rock records as easily as could beside Tanya Tucker or Patsy Cline, Free Wheelin’doesn’t particularly fit into any one genre over another, instead embracing its heterogeneous influences with a fervor that is quite refreshing and aesthetically pleasing to hear. In the title track, a white hot overdriven guitar takes us careening through a furious verse that calls for self-empowerment, tenacity and confidence with a cocky swagger that challenges any of the most amplified macho power anthems you’ve heard in the last decade and beyond. “Reflections of My Life” paints a poignant picture of the yearning and inner conflict that rages when we don’t want to die, but we don’t know how to go on living the way that we always have (and possibly the only way that we know how). There’s a uniquely feminine resolute spirit and backbone that drives all of the passion behind Cathy Hutch’s music and lyrics on Free Wheelin’, and it’s moving not only for women but for my fellow music critics as well to see such a strong contribution from an up and coming artist like this. 2018 needed something to definitively pick up the pace and set the bar for the upcoming decade in popular music, and I think this album does both exceptionally.