Paul Catlado‘s upbeat, rhythmic collection, Rivers, Roads & Mountains plays with all the vigor and snap of a strong cup of coffee. “Going back where the roads are dirt and the girls don’t frown,” he sings on the lead track, “Mountain Town.” Cataldo’s voice is a rich baritone, his delivery direct and unembellished — the sort of warm, confident style that suits straight forward Americana.
But not every song on Rivers is a happy romp through mountain living. Though the album is thoroughly modern, Cataldo takes a turn at age-old subjects. “Damn You River” is a 21st century take on “The Wind and Rain;” “What’s in This Water” offers up a sharply environmentalist perspective from the point of view of one who lives on and loves the land. Plus, the line, “What’s in this water we are drinking, what’s in these thoughts we are thinking” makes short work of the treatment of the natural environment as apt metaphor for the state of humanity.
That Cataldo was raised in Boston seems only a footnote to his deeply rootsy sound. While his own prowess on acoustic guitar and harmonica creates a solid base for the record, it’s the savvy addition fiddle, mandolin, peddle steel, Dobro and banjo that anchors Rivers to a specifically southern sense of place. Appropriately, after a stint as a New York City-based singer/songwriter, Cataldo relocated to Black Mountain, a town which suits his country-tinged flannel shirt and blue jeans aesthetic.
Though Cataldo seems to have settled down (for the time being, at least), “Thinkin’ About Runnin’” is a stand out track on Rivers, with a driving beat, some excellent everyman lyrics (“Bills are everywhere, rents is overdue, I probably even owe some money to you”), a deliciously metallic Dobro part and Cataldo’s own vocals pushing toward the upper reach of his register. Also worthy of space on the jukebox: “I Wish I Didn’t Have a Heart,” an old-school made-for-crying-in-beer country tear jerker delivered in a chunky, up-tempo waltz with perfectly-placed pedal steel.
Catch Paul Cataldo a number local dates throughout April, (a sampling follows) or learn more at PaulCataldo.com.
• WNCW in-studio performance, Wednesday, April 7, 11 a.m.
• South Rock Bar & Grill (830 Greenville Hwy., Hendersonville, 698-2490), Friday, April 9, 7 p.m.
• The Saluda Inn (229 Greenville St., Saluda, 749-9698), Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.
• Town Pump (135 Cherry St., Black Mountain, 669-4808), Tuesday, April 12, 8:30 p.m.
• Blue Mountain Pizza (55 North Main St., Weaverville, 658-8777), Thursday, April 15, 7 p.m.
• French Broad Chocolate Lounge (10 South Lexington Ave., Asheville, 252-4181), Friday, April 16, 8 p.m.
• Pisgah Brewing Company (150 Eastside Dr., Black Mountain, 669-0190), Thursday, April 22, 7 p.m.
• Luella’s BBQ (501 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, 505-7427), Friday, April 30, 8 p.m.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter