CATFISH KEITH – Land Of The Sky (Fish Tail Records FTRCD019)

Land Of The SkyCatfish continues his prolific recording career. Land Of The Sky is his twentieth album overall and his third in the last three years. After last year’s Blues At Midnight, a collection of Catfish Keith’s own songs written across his career, the new album is a mix of self-penned tracks and songs from the unique styles of Rev Gary Davis, Jimmie Rodgers, Walter Davis, Memphis Minnie, Lil’ Son Jackson, Charley Patton, Jimmie Davis and the particularly unique style of Joseph Spence, represented here with ‘Bimini Gal’.

There are three original tracks. ‘Little Bitty Bird’ arrived in a dream after Keith had been listening obsessively to the Carter family for several days. If you’ve never heard Catfish Keith this track, and/or ‘Bust ‘em Down’ later on the album, would be a great introduction to his gravelly voice and plucked guitar. The third, ‘Scoodle Oot ‘n’ Doo’, was written some years ago and forgotten until rediscovered last summer in his notes. It’s played on a resophonic ukulele and the title is beautifully onomatopoeic of the music.

Reverend Gary Davis is represented by ‘Samson & Delilah’ and ‘Sit Down On The Banks Of The River’, the former being a version of the biblical story and the latter is a glorious blues on the familiar gospel theme of passing over.

The album opens with the Jimmie Rodgers song ‘Away Out On The Mountain’, feasting on “the meat and the honey so sweet” – yodelling included on the track. Memphis Minnie’s ‘Dirty Mother For You’ is a tale of woe in the verses and a vocal performance that leaves us in no doubt that the elided lyric “He’s a dirty Mother-For you/Didn’t mean me no good” is as expressive as Roger Daltry’s stammer requesting us to “F-f-fade away”. Great fun.

‘Listen To The Mockingbird’ is a traditional fiddle tune played beautifully on the guitar. ‘Jonnie Mae’ is the Lil’ Son Jackson song – heavy on the bass strings and counterpointed by Catfish Keith’s falsetto inter-mingling with his gravel to recreate the conversation between the two characters. The final track is Charley Patton’s ballad ‘Some Of These Days’.

Land Of The Sky is a lovely Catfish Keith album – if you know his work, it’s up there with the rest; if you don’t, it’s a great introduction.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

There are no new videos of Keith so here’s a not-too-oldie: ‘Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes’ – live:

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