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WPGM Recommends: Catherine McGrath – One (EP Review)

Hailing from County Down, Northern Ireland, and based in London, country pop singer songwriter, Catherine McGrath, released her acoustic EP, One, Friday, December 23. Tracks “Hell Would Have To Freeze Over” and “Cinderella” are both available for streaming.

She began her musical path when she picked up a guitar and began teaching herself to play music, to accompany her voice. With musical parents by her side, and the traditional Irish folk scene around her, she delved into the world of music playing regularly at her parents’ Fiddler’s Green Festival.

The 19 year old is influenced by the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, RaeLynn, Rascal Flatts, Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay and Maddie & Tae. Also, she’s very much influenced by “country music epicentre”, Nashville. With Warner Bros’ Records behind her, recording there is now a reality.

Catherine “began her career by uploading country tinged acoustic covers of well known pop songs”. This led to her being picked up by London and New York City based company, Instrumental, who apparently specialise in discovering and developing music talent emerging on social media.

The EP features three original compositions (and one cover) that Catherine explains, “fit all of the different parts of my personality… I’m writing music that I genuinely love and I care about the message that I’m sending out”.

She will also be supporting Una Healy, of The Saturdays, at two special shows in February. She will be playing at London’s St Pancras Old Church Wednesday, February 15; before returning to Ireland to play Dublin’s Sugar Club on the following night.

She opens saying “Hell Would Have To Freeze Over”. It’s earnest and life affirming. The vocals are honest and from the heart. The chorus has a certain ferocity to it, particularly the emphatic, bold strums of guitar. There are some excellent dynamics, the strumming and vocals dropping to almost a whisper before building up, again. The backing vocal arrangement adds essential layers and nuances to the whole thing.

“Cinderella”, however, is a bit more dainty, vulnerable even. The vibe, vocally, is that of someone totally crestfallen. “What if it sets us free/What if it’s meant to be” really encapsulates that feeling of, perhaps, hopelessness.

Intermittent, mournful strum of guitar punctuates a thoughtful spread of the song, as if contemplating the words and almost forgetting to keep playing the guitar. “What if it’s that easy/What if the shoe fits me…sort of feel like Cinderella at the ball” aptly pertains to the song title.

Catherine tells him “She’ll Never Love You”. This’s a moody one, fit to burst, with an undercurrent of energy apparent in that animated strum of guitar. This builds in tandem with soaring vocal, a swell to the point of exploding.

There’s certainly an urgency and immediacy to the whole thing. At times this is the guitar in tandem with the vocals, at other times the energetic strum contrasts very much with occasionally sedate vocals. How she changes this up is expertly done.

She closes to plead “Say You Love Me” (a Jessie Ware cover). This also a bit of verve about it, too. The guitar has a perceptible groove to it, quite stop start. If played electric it would certainly make, arguably, for an even more rousing tune than it already is. The vocals really dance into descending melody, beautiful and melancholy: “…’cos I don’t want to fall in love, if you don’t want to try”.

This EP’s a good mixture of very good and excellent, and’s also aided by how well the tracks are sequenced. The best tracks, “Cinderella” and “She’ll Never Love You”, are slap bang right in the middle. The lyrics in the former suitably read like said Disney film, the music as fragile as her glass slipper. It’s a bit of a departure from the previous, opening track, in that it displays more of her range.

Then the latter expertly switches guitar and vocal from in tandem to in contrast. Excellent dynamics. Not only that, there are moments her vocals are belted out, so startlingly at odds with the aforementioned fragile track. It’s almost like you didn’t know she had it in her, the opening track the only, however small, hint that such a range might rear its head.

Speaking of the opener, and closer, too, these are only a whisker from being equally excellent themselves. “Hell Would Have To Freeze Over” is so life affirming, it’s excellent in that its essence is perhaps the perfect way to open the EP. “Say You Love Me” has guitar work as varied as the guitar you hear in “She’ll Never Love You”, therefore these differ satisfyingly from the other two, as well.

Catherine McGrath has put forward something very good to start, excellent in the middle and then also very good to end. This notable considering the project is entirely acoustic. There’s real variety in the music, not just merely your typical, bland singer songwriter fare.

Catherine McGrath’s One EP can be purchased, here.

Also visit her Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, Soundcloud and website pages to keep tabs on Catherine McGrath.

Words by Andrew Watson

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