18 December 2019 (released)
17 March 2020
These uncertain times have just got that much more uncertain. Our revulsion at the bickering of the outside world is now trumped by a very real public crisis. We're all going to be taking some steps inward over the next few months with travel bans, gathering bans and urges from the government to isolate. With that inevitably comes a shift in perspective, a re-evaluation of our habits and an appreciation for the things we hold dearest.
Iowa-based singer-songwriter Stephanie Catlett is one step ahead of us on that score with her debut EP Meet Me In the Dream, a softly-swaying country-tinged album that observes the world in its chaotic state from what remains of her cozy corner of the world. Taking a break from a career as a marketing writer for other's work, Catlett is now telling her own story from her Iowa City bungalow in the company of her three cats. Her felines have become a touchstone of sanity when compared to the growing reactionary vitriol coming from the human world. Catlett finds her sweet spot in similar territory to Jenny Lewis or the more country-influenced work of Sheryl Crow.
Wistful fingerpicked guitar sets the scene of Catlett waxing from her porch about tougher times on the opener 'Ruined Houses'. The singer takes a “hindsight is 20/20” approach to detailing the precarious situations in which she has landed herself. Slight performances from the backing band delicately frame Catlett's composition. A matter-of-fact tone takes over her delivery on 'So, David'. She sings from the position of the scratched optimist offering comfort to fellow travellers with a shimmering electric guitar and violin lifting her message.
The swaying despondent waltz of 'Nothing But Fine' seems to best sum up the mood of the zeitgeist. Noble in defeat trumpets give a muted fanfare Beirut-style to her tale of being bullied into apathy by the firehose of disconcerting news delivered minute-by-minute every day. Catlett turns her heels, lifts her chin up, and faces the day with the goal of just escaping it just “fine”.
Stephanie Catlett's debut is a cleanly produced, lightly soulful examination of what it is to be a positive person when the world turns repugnant. The album sits in a heartland warmth without ever breaking to the honk of country. A strong debut from this mid-west melodist.