It’s exceedingly difficult to create a great live album, but with When We Get to Shore, Northwest US songwriter and folk singer Coty Hogue seems to have succeeded at just that. When recording live music, there’s no safety net. There’s no autotune to adjust the singing, or do-overs to cover up mistakes, but Coty Hogue clearly needs none of that. Her live album crackles with electricity and showcases her distinctly beautiful voice. It’s the kind of voice that’s equally at home singing a subtle, acoustic version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” as it is singing songs from her own pen, or a mournful Appalachian ballad. Few singers today can claim that kind of diversity, but Coty Hogue walks these lines easily.
All these influences come from a life well-lived. Raised in Montana, Coty Hogue grew up with the awe-inspiring wide open skies and rugged mountains of her hometown embedded in her music. She left at a young age to move to Bellingham, WA, a small arts-based city nestled into the waters of the Puget Sound about an hour and a half North of Seattle. She nurtured her songwriting talent there, collaborating with other artists, including fellow songwriter Sarah Fulford (whose song “Jonah” opens the album, and whose songs have featured on all of Coty’s albums). In 2009, Coty moved across the country to Boone, North Carolina to work for a Masters in Appalachian Studies. She studied the old songs and ballads of Southern old-time music, immersing herself in their sparse, haunted landscapes. Returning to Bellingham, where she now lives, Coty’s carved out a space for herself in the national folk scene as a uniquely versatile singer, an artist whose music resonates with knowledge of our past history and hope for a bright future.
When We Get To Shore was recorded live before a joyous audience at Seattle’s renowned Empty Sea Studios. Recording engineer Michael Connolly has perfected the art of live recording, and it really shows on this album. Joined by fellow Bellingham musicians Aaron Guest (vocals/guitar) and Kat Bula (fiddle/vocals), Coty’s sound is rich and warm, but also intimately alone, unbuffered by studio trickery. The songs run the gamut of her influences, from a Fleetwood Mac cover (“Second Hand News”) to beautiful, thoughtful renditions of traditional songs like “Wedding Dress” and “Handsome Molly.” Coty’s songs feature prominently, like the graceful mourning of “Cannot Deliver,” and the bitter taste of “Fire and Ashes.” The album closes with a song from Bill Monroe and a song from Hazel Dickens, cementing Coty’s love for American roots music. Each song is treated with careful reverence, as Coty draws out its inner essence.