Cat Ridgeway Demonstrates Fluid Musical Versatility & Chops On ‘Nice To Meet You’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Cat Ridgeway’s singing supersedes the lyrics so finely-printed inside the digi-pak of Nice To Meet You. But that’s no criticism of the words to the seven songs, only an observation/reminder the human voice is rightly regarded as the greatest of all musical instruments. On this the woman’s fifth recording, however, she also demonstrates her multi-instrumental skills: besides assuming lead vocals, Ridgeway plays guitar, various keyboards, mandolin, trumpet, and percussion over the course of the approximately twenty-five minutes duration. 

It’s a potent combination by which her versatility balances the stability afforded by the corps of musicians who appear throughout the EP. As on the archetypal pop-soul of “Giving You Up,” drummer Billy Dean and bassist Dan Walters anchor the performance while Brendan McNeil’s lead guitar swirls up and around the bedrock rhythm. It’s to the latter’s credit his instrumental lines never collide with Cat’s soaring voice, but that also bespeaks the pair’s self-discipline and awareness in the spontaneity of the moment.

On a similarly rootsy stylistic front, Christian Ryan’s saxophone pairs with Cat’s trumpet to decorate “Nobody” with punchy horns that elevate the infectious r&b quality of the tune. Including the background vocals of Jeni Valtinson, the six-person ensemble on this cut sounds much bigger than their number and the lineup expands further on “Whiskey Lullabies” incorporating one-time Friends of the late Gregg Allman, trumpeter Matt Franklin, and saxophonist Art Edmaiston, for a snappy neo-soul workout.

It’s evidence of Cat Ridgeway’s judicious co-production with Billy Chapin that the pair sequence the first bonafide spotlight for the gutsy Florida-native female at the very center of the mini-album. Her insouciant phrasing suits the ebullient “Sweet Like Candy” as does Carlos Fernandez’ ‘auxiliary percussion:’ both elements percolate within the track so that its four-minute duration seems to pass in half that time. There’s also some palpable wit in the words to “Mississippi Sunburn” that carries over into the very next cut “Julianna Money,” all of which is a reaffirmation of the personality with which Ridgeway has imbued her performances.

The syncopation of the latter’s arrangement also signals the cumulative momentum within Nice To Meet You. Appropriately, there’s a decided air of finality in “I Don’t,” yet this last cut also carries a certain sensation of anticipation. As such, it functions simultaneously as punctuation for this recording and an invitation to the future work of Cat Ridgeway.

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