African-Canadian roots musician Kaia Kater is young, but her voice emanates a long life of hurt and rumination. Raised in diverse Toronto, Kater spent some formative years among the rich musical traditions of West Virginia. That influence is front and center in her recently released sophomore album, Nine Pin. The collection of Americana music was recorded in one day, with Kater and lauded musician Chris Bartos co-producing. Kater and Bartos’ handiwork feels far from a rushed affair, though—15 songs of simple instrumentation produce feelings that both stir and calm. Kater is most effective when she really slows things down, allowing her trusty banjo and low tenor voice enough room to breathe and paint a picture. Songs like “Paradise Fell” and “Rising Down,” with their opaque references to the Black Lives Matter movement, are beautiful in their lamentation, sounding like modern dirges. Some of Nine Pin’s lyrics were inspired by the works of author Toni Morrison, and like Beloved or Song of Solomon, Nine Pin transports its audience to a very specific time and place. Turn it on and you can practically see the bluegrass and Appalachian hills. (Kingswood Records)
This article is a part of the June/July 2016 Healing Connections issue of Whole Life Times.