Posts Tagged ‘Kat McDowell’

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“Happy Kat”  is  not Kat McDowell’s nickname, but  after seeing her live at the Witzend Saturday night, that  is what I am going to call her because  that is what she does – make people happy. And Saturday night she made a packed house, standing room only cheering crowd very, very happy.  Not bad for his first major live performance in her adopted LA home.

 

Born in Japan, raised mostly in New Zealand, with many parts of both cultures inside her, Kat McDowell makes  music in both English and Japanese that make you sit up and take notice, or just let you happily tap your feet. She combines, pop, J-Pop, calypso, rock, Hawaiian and a positive musical attitude in a mixture that is like sunshine to listen to.  She built a successful career in Japan as a gaijun – a non-Japanese, even though she  is a native –  and that’s a serious challenge . But after many albums, singles, gigs, shows,  TV commercials and studio sessions, she was  a success there so now she is taking on the largest and most competitive music city in the world.  And from what I saw Saturday night,  she is taking it by storm.

 

Starting the 11 song set list with “Hopeful” , the lead song on the album she released Saturday, “Rise Above”,  she gets us moving right away with a lively western/pop  acoustic guitar  strum beat and the lyrics that  tell us that although it is  Just us against the world…we’ll rise above again…and we are hopeful. She picks us the energy with Diana with strong guitar riffs powdered with a fast-paced kick drum  that stays steady as she pushes even higher and faster, propelling one guest to get up and dance to the side of the stage – much to Kat’s  encouraging amusement.

 

After introducing  herself  and the band Peter Chalmers on guitar, Pablo Motta on drums

Masaki Kusumori on bass and telling us about the new album, “Rise Above” she downshifts the energy and smoothed out the beat out with “Where Are you love:’ from her You and Me album, a perfect  prelude to  her kicking back and starting a personal conversation with the audience, telling us about starting the piano at 6 years old  and wanting to learn more, but  being intimidated by a 4-year old boy prodigy in her class. However, when she moved to the piano,  kicked off her shoes, and demonstrated her prowess on the keys on two  songs, including the “Still Learning How to Start” accented by an electrifying guitar riff and “Lovely Day”, written with her brother.

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Putting her shoes back on and flashing her 100-megawatt smile,  Kat returned to center stage, pulled  up a stool  and asked us if she minded her sitting down for a while.  We  didn’t and were  rewarded with the ukulele-led  “ Human” ,  3.11 from her Hope  in You album, and “Everywhere I go’  and  the island-hopping  “Goodbye” with Kat’s signature happy beats and not  so-happy lyrics blending into addictive  music.  Then she did something  I have never seen a singer do – she gave us her phone number – actually, she brought out a large banner with her number on it (310-846-8416)  and told  us  to text  it  for a free download.  Phones came out and the  sound of fingers  tapping filled the room (it worked – I got my  download).

 

Rolling down to the finish line, Kat held up a hand-designed towel  with her name on it and told us  they would available  with CD’s.  Then she balled up  the towel, threw into the audience – almost  as good as  a t-shirt  gun at the ball game. While the towel was being passed  around the back rows, she  kicked  off  “Final Win” telling us  You have never heard her roar and then really roared in “Break Free” from her You and Me album. But best of  all, she finished  with “A Little  Rain”,  charging it with the best energy of the  night, engaging the audience in call and response and even demonstrating her trilling skills.

The audience was  deliriously happy and clearly wanted now, and the Witzend widely gave her time for an encore even though the clock said it now Sunday morning. Kat McDowell had accomplished what she set out to do, release an album

m with a band and make people  happy. From now on, she is “Happy Kat” to me.

Patrick  O’Heffernan. Host Music  FridayLive!

 

Kat McDowell. Rise Above

http://kat-mcdowell.com/

https://twitter.com/katmcdowell

album available on iTunes and Amazon

See my review of the album at http://www.revolutionthreesixty.com/2014/10/kat-mcdowell.html

kat ukelele

The thing about Kat McDowell is that she is just plain fun to listen to. And remarkably, she is fun to listen to in two languages, English and Japanese.  And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, given the difference between the two languages. But  Kat McDowell does it so well that in any language her music can make you sit up and take notice, or just let you happily tap your feet. Either way, she is a musical force on a fast track.

 

Born in Japan, raised mostly in New Zealand, with many parts of both cultures inside her, she combines pop, J-Pop, calypso, rock and a positive musical attitude in a mixture that is like sunshine to listen to.  She built a successful career in Japan and now is in the USA, Los Angeles to be geographically exact, enjoying its surf (she is avid surfer), its plethora of recording assets and a world  class population of collaborating artists.  The first fruits of that relocation, the album Rise Above,  is due out in two weeks  and it is a winner from the first note.

kate singing up

Rise Above is a substantial work;  10 songs, one in Japanese and English, the others in English, each one  distinctive,  but still well within the upbeat universe that Kat constructs even from the most somber of contests.  The album’s breakout single, “Human” is  her musical follow up to a very nasty argument that moves from Just one of those days when I don’t want to get out of bed to  Surely we can be human. Framed with a ukulele, light guitar  strum and drum brushes, it makes you smile and tap your feet as you think about – why can’t we all just get along and be human.  You know you are in Kat’s World and you love it.

“Still Learning How To Start” picks up the pace with heavier guitars and a  solid pop beat, but it is still Kat McDowell Sunshine,  even as she sings of  promises made  under the stars at night.. The chorus Here we are, you still have my heart” and here we are and we’re still learning how to start  is a first class earworm hook, tailor-made for top  40 radio and a crush of fans singing and  waving their arms and cellphones at a concert (I’ll be there).

“Lovely Day” is exactly what you want to wake up to…bright shiny pop notes and lyrics that tell you no matter how bad you feel, it is  a beautiful day.  There’s always some kind of crises, she reminds us and tells us to put a smile back on our face and be the change we want in our life. And she says she will help you carry on – and she does. Not profound, but it works and is especially welcome in a rock universe with so much music that makes you want to stay in bed.

My favorite song on the Album is “Goodbye”, which introduces a more Caribbean feel, and is little  more serious, although Kat’s trademark cheery voice and the upbeat arrangement is well within sunshine land.  You’ve had to say goodbye so many times, You can’t remember why you even bother sings the woman who played at 1000 gigs on three continents and is now living in her third country. This is not about her, but it is very intriguing…makes you wonder  while you tap your feet.

The remaining 6 songs on the album are all musically addictive and emotionally thoughtful as they venture into shadows as well as sunshine. Standouts include  “Walkaway”, a quiet poetic story performed with a guitar and no happy ending as she walks away from a relationship, “Dianna”  moved along with an EDM-style beat and syncopated keyboards and electric guitar in a classically–assembled pop arrangement with a twist, and the pop ballad  “Final Win”  with a 80’s rock feel in which she reminds you that you have never heard my roar (we will). And finally, the Japanese version of  “Still Learning How to Start” which shows how she elevates her voice to a higher key and enunciates the Japanese lyrics a little faster  than the English.

This is an album you can put on in the background as you go about your day,  or on your earbuds with your eyes closed while you lie on the beach and think about life, hers and yours.  It is a perfect introduction for Kat McDowell into the US market and should carve out a space for  her that she can build on, and she certainly will. Above all, Rise Above  is pure musical sunshine.

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music FridayLive! radio

https://twitter.com/katmcdowell

 

kat guitar trees large