Black Music Matters Festival

Cattle Call

Good Life – 1999 (Brickhouse Music)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

CDs by Cattle Call

Cattle Call's lead-singer and songwriter Mark Farrington wears his New England heart on his warm, flannel sleeve. Though the superb opening track, "Log Trucks & Snowmobile Trails," declares his independence from the Southern themes of country, there's a rebel pride native to the Northeast tip of the U.S. not unlike that found in Texas.

Farrington's got a high, expressive voice, akin to Bob Delevante, or perhaps a genteel Neil Young. Played against Matthew Robbins' twangy guitar, bassist James McGirr's tight harmonies and drummer Mark Cousins' light, steady rhythms, Farrington's songs chart the struggles of desire and hope against fate. The suffocating romantic endgame "This Time Around" the nostalgic "November Skies" and the self-realization pep-talk of "Change" all surround a man struggling to take control of his life. The fiddle-backed blue yodel "Too Old to Ramble" explores a possible ending.

The rootsiness of Cattle Call's music suggests the weak strains of Young Country died out before they could infect Maine. The result is a joyous album steeped in two-steps, waltzes and the spirit of the winter frontier. (Cattle Call, 2 Tarklin Hill Road, Raymond, ME 04071)