In 1966 Jimmy Ruffin of the Temptations sang “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” Well, Jimmy, if you were to go searching for them forty years later, you would no doubt find them in a dive bar all pickled up with Catfish Haven as the house band. This Chicago trio led by the rustic, soulful and flinty voice of George Hunter, is named in honor of the childhood trailer park in which he grew up in. Oh, stop laughing; none of these songs are about PBR, tornadoes, or hitting your spouse.
Instead, Tell Me is Southern Fried to a degree and evokes the likes of CCR and Otis Reading when he was really hurting over a woman. While it is an album which revolves around heartbreak, Tell Me is has a harmonious edge showing a glimmering light at the end of the tunnel and it’s while it exhibits how easily a man’s soul can ache, Catfish Haven aren’t some sappy mope stew that bubbles and simmers endlessly.
From the opening punk rock hoedown of “I Don’t Worry” to the ebullient gospel tinged title track, it’ll become clear that the good folks at the Fat Possum label may be kicking themselves for not inking this band. There is even a delightful twang/funk hybrid with “Grey Skies” as Catfish Haven throw in a facet of ’50s proto soul and well placed horns on “Down By Your Fire” which is, in fact, an ode to insomnia.
Tell Me is swampy, gritty, sooty, and sounds like it was made by guys with greasy and wooly hair and dirt under their fingernails, but it’s this semblance which makes their sound what it is. Overall, Tell Me is feel good music which abstains from being slushy so you won’t feel bad for listening to it. You hear that, Rusted Root?!
Grand Funk Railroad – Closer to Home
Mountain – Climbing!
My Morning Jacket – At Dawn