On her new album The Workingman’s Blues, Toronto-based singer/songwriter Kat Goldman has crafted a powerful statement about the struggles so many of us face today. Primarily a concept album based on her recent real-life experiences living in Boston, the 12-track collection explores the dark underbelly of American society through the eyes of a character, the “workingman,” as told by a female narrator.
After making several attempts on her own to record the songs, Goldman completed the album with producer/guitarist Bill Bell (Tom Cochrane, Jason Mraz), and a band comprised of bassist Marc Rogers, drummer Davide Direnzo, keyboardist Lou Pomanti and cellist Kevin Fox.
Since releasing her debut album, The Great Disappearing Act (produced by Juno-winner Gavin Brown) in 2002, Kat Goldman has come to be regarded as one of Canada’s best singer/songwriters. Her work has been covered by an array of international artists, including Grammy nominees The Duhks and prolific American singer-songwriter Dar Williams, long one of Kat’s great supporters.
Goldman’s 2007 sophomore album Sing Your Song came after she survived nearly being killed by a car crashing through a store window, and the record’s inspirational tone earned widespread acclaim, including being named one of CBC Radio’s Top 10 albums of that year.
In 2009, Goldman began studying English Literature at Boston University, which had a strong influence on her next album, 2013’s Gypsy Girl, which explored her wanderlust and yearning for home. Now with The Workingman’s Blues, Goldman fully evokes her time in Boston when violence and racial tension were on the rise, mainly due to a decline in sustainable employment.
Kat Goldman officially launches The Workingman’s Blues in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 5 at Hugh’s Room, with an early show time of 6:30 pm. For more info go to katgoldmanmusic.com.
What makes this album stand apart from your previous releases?
I feel like The Workingman's Blues is my best work yet. It differs from my previous albums in that I was trying to tell a story, a fiction, through the songs, from beginning, middle, to end. It was the first time in my songwriting that I took on the character of the “narrator,” and tried to describe the hopes and struggles of the main character, “The Workingman.” It required me to dig deep to face my assumptions and prejudices about his character and come to a place of empathy for his plight.
Which song do you feel best represents the album?
“Baby, I Understand” is the song on the album that I feel is most successful in tapping into this place of empathy for the working poor in America, and is the song that best captures my current musical vision. I’ve always tried to write a good ballad, and this song, I feel, shows my skills honed both lyrically and musically to the same level as my most well-known and first ballad, “Annabel.”
What do you miss most about living in Boston?
I was in Cambridge, and there is the feeling there that you can let down your barriers, and nobody is going to judge you. Cambridge is a fantastic and provocative place.
You have the wealthiest people in the world at its center, attending the local colleges, and at the same time, on the same block, you see the most disadvantaged people in America: the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicts, ex-vets, many who appear to be “The Walking Dead,” and yet who have this incredible spirit and charisma, and stories of their own, and who paint a picture in Cambridge of its unjust extremes: black vs. white, those who have money and those who have nothing, etc. The story of The Workingman is only one of these incredible stories. Cambridge was a place where I was able to re-create myself, amidst this tremendously troubled but colourful landscape.
What’s been the most significant change in your life in the past year?
Moving back to Canada, for sure. We have no idea how “good” we have it here, in terms of safety, healthcare, and standard of living. Cambridge remains in my heart, but moving back to Toronto has also given me access to such a vibrant and widespread musical community—other songwriters, musicians, dancers, producers, engineers, etc. I could never have made this record if I had stayed in Cambridge.
What’s your favourite musical memory when you were growing up?
I remember when I was a child, walking into the tiny downstairs bathroom in my house and finding my grandfather standing there playing the violin, my uncle Billy squished into a corner playing his fiddle, and my cousin Shula sitting on the toilet seat playing the guitar. I must have been about five years old, looking up at them all and feeling perplexed when one of them said, “The acoustics are better in here!”