Cattle and Cane “Golden”

Independent, 2023

Folk-pop music with a rich tapestry of sounds reaches for the sky.

Hailing from Teeside, Cattle & Cane have built a solid reputation in their home territory of northeast England. That’s based on multiple sell-out performances and three albums they released themselves, as well as a mini collection of covers. Their new album ‘Golden’ can only strengthen the band’s ties with fans. That said, it’s not clear if this is a breakthrough moment. Is this enough for Cattle & Cane to go from respected local band to a national or even international act?

‘Golden’ certainly hits most of the right notes. It has a rich pop sound, a combination of lush instrumental arrangements joined to the harmonies of siblings Helen and Joe Hammill. The Hammills are the fixed point of Cattle & Cane, together with a shifting group of musicians who join them on tour and in the studio. It was produced by long-time collaborator and the band’s live bassist, Luke Elgie, and mixed by engineers Mike Butler and John Martindale, with contributions from session musicians including Thomas Frip, Liam Fender, Ada Francis, and Harry Fausing Smith. The result of this collective effort is a smorgasbord of sounds. There are moments in the album where they sound like the Weepies; then the Kennedys. The pattern is of family duets, though unlike the Weepies or Kennedys, the Hammills are related by birth, not marriage.

‘Golden’ keeps to the path set by Cattle & Cane’s previous album, ‘Navigator‘. It has been described as influenced by American West Coast pop of the seventies,” which gives it a feelgood vibe. As that AUK review noted, there is a manifest contradiction in that album– a pop sound coupled with Joe Hammill’s somewhat dark lyrics. This continues in ‘Golden’. Its theme is relationships and the darkness which comes from the honesty with which the issue is addressed. As Joe says, it’s about “the insecurities, the complexities, and the hope contained within” relationships. While the songs are reminiscent of pop hits about young love they are really about adults and both the joy and the pain that happens when they come together and drift apart.

The album opens with ‘Golden’, a song with orchestral sound that celebrates the lightening charge of love. Like other songs on the record, its lyrics have a bit of the nonsensical charm of English words on a Japanese t-shirt: “When I’m dying in Yzorgama And there’s a telephone I will see you in the same light.” The next song ‘IOU’ could be a great blues number with lyrics like “after some deliberation/ From the whiskey dilation/ I owe you an explanation/  ‘Cause no excuse is the sign/ Straight up on the river Without contemplation.”  But it has an almost oriental sound like Peggy Lee’s ‘Siamese Cat Song’. Most of the other songs explore relationships from different perspectives, including broken hearts and the sheer rollercoaster of romance.

Overall, this is a well-crafted offering but the juxtaposition of a layered pop sound with lyrics about love’s hard reality may not be enough to take ‘Golden’ platinum.

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About Michael Macy 50 Articles
Grew up in the American Midwest and bounced around a bit until settling in London. Wherever I've been, whatever I have done, has been to sound of Americana. It is a real privilege to be part of this site, discover new music and write about it.
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