Of course, the twenty-five-year-old is still developing. A Cork Tale Wake is more coherent, less chaotic, and better produced than his previous, self-released CD, Throatsleep. And the way he incorporates piano, cello, violin, and trumpet makes more sense on the latter record. His lovely, heart-wrenching melodies and melancholic vocals are more prominent in the mix, and he lays off the distorted sound effects enough to let the songs breathe.
But he could loosen up a lot more without losing his angst and artistry. He could take better advantage of a driving beat, as he does in the memorable “Restless.” He might try just a guitar, bass, and drum lineup. Or he could head more in the direction of a traditional medieval minstrel and storyteller.
Maybe I’m just getting too old to take myself so seriously. When Chris Bathgate gets to that age, he could probably bring me to my knees.
Chris Bathgate is the headliner at the Elbow Room on Friday, April 17.
[Originally published in April, 2009.]