BY: W.J. Hallock

Coty Hogue’s new CD, “When We Get To Shore,” definitely shows off her talents as a singer, song-writer, guitarist and claw-hammer banjo player. It also shows that she is absolutely fearless! This release was recorded “LIVE At Empty Sea Studios,“ in Seattle, Washington.

Anyone attempting to record a live CD, in my humble opinion, is either an eternal optimist, or certifiably crazy! So many things can go wrong….. mentally, technically, musically, physically, mechanically…… you really have to have all your ducks in a row! But…. if you persevere and pull it off, you end up with an audio Polaroid of that moment in time. A total one of a kind image.

Coty Hogue pulled this one off, and she did it in a marvelously intimate, emotional and personal fashion.

Coty did her part, delivering vocals that seem to come straight from her heart and soul. Her playing is also spot on, with nary a note out of tune, or time. She had to have lived with these songs night and day to possess them like she does. Her pre-production dedication to perfection is awesome! She does four of the songs presented here solo, with just her singing, and accompanied by her banjo or guitar. But, it’s with the final song that she proves her mettle. She does an a cappella version of the Hazel Dickens song “Pretty Bird” that will have you glued to every note. Outstanding!

Coty had two weapons in her musical arsenal that helped make this CD spring to life. Kat Bula, who sings harmony and plays fiddle, and Aaron Guest, who also sings and plays 12-string guitar, add just the right amount of pizzazz to the mix. COTY HOGE PULL 1There is never a time throughout this entire listening experience that they didn’t make their appearances fit in smoothly and unobtrusively. Never once did I hear them overstep or push the boundaries of what the song or the arrangement needed. Coty’s voice, and the songs themselves, are the stars of this CD, and Kat and Aaron gracefully and graciously dressed their playing up, or down, appropriately.

The other person that greatly influenced the success of this recording is recording engineer Michael Connolly. Some on-line research revealed that his Empty Sea Studios is very revered by the local Seattle acoustic music crowd. The studio was built into an old house with impeccable technical expertise by Mr. Connolly, and it includes a stage in the living room, and about forty seats that also make it available for house concerts. From the sounds of this CD, Michael IS the master of live recording in the North West! Coty’s job was probably eased considerably knowing Michael was at the controls.

I tend to shy away from anything I find “gimmicky,” and when I first checked out the song selections, there were two songs I just wasn’t sure I was going to like. Bruce Springsteen and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame aren’t exactly my favorite “bluegrass/country” song-writers! At my age, I should know better than to let my negativity rear it’s ugly head before I listen to something new and completely foreign to my ears. This was my first exposure to Coty’s talents, so I just sat and listened….. then I went to the computer and checked her out on YouTube. 


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Coty has some very nice videos of her actually recording this CD, and some of her with Kat and Aaron playing other venues and songs that weren’t on this release. I found myself hearing and seeing that the key to Coty’s music really is it’s simplicity. It can be stark, bare and devoid of any frills or flash. But…. the beauty and emotion of the songs, and Miss Hogue’s performances, shine through very brightly. And when two and three part harmony is added, and/or fiddle and guitar are implemented, this three piece band rises from demure to dramatic in an instant. COTY HOGE PULL 2I don’t know if this simplistic approach to her arrangements is an intentional, conscious effort at individuality, or she just plays and sings the way she does because that’s just who she is. I DO know that her sound works beautifully, Kat and Aaron complimented every song they appeared on and Michael Connolly didn’t miss a lick in getting it all recorded!

Three of the twelve songs were originals by Coty, and another, the first song on the CD, “Jonah,” was written by Coty’s good friend, Sarah Fulford. On “Jonah” and Coty’s own “Cannot Deliver” and “Fire And Ashes,” the vocal tracks are superb and the fiddle, claw-hammer and guitar instrumentation sizzle. On her last original, “Venus Flytrap,” Miss Hogue plays it solo with just her guitar and some super sweet finger pickin’.

As good as these were, more originals would have been welcome…… I have to give credit where credit is due though. Coty Hogue is the only artist I’ve heard do a Springsteen tune that I haven’t heard Bruce singing the harmony in the back of my mind. She does “I’m On Fire” as it might have sounded on the front porch of an old, backwoods mountain cabin 75 years ago. She does it so well it sounds as if she had written it herself, and was singing it for her own pleasure. Her interpretation would make Mr. Springsteen proud. And the harmonies on Mr. Buckingham’s song, “Second Hand News,” made even this old curmudgeon enjoy the song immensely!

Four traditional tunes were also included that further displayed Coty’s abilities to turn old, historical gems into technically new, modern day, musical experiences. Anyone not familiar with bluegrass, mountain and old time music listening to them for the first time is bound to end up a convert to Coty Hogue’s brand of music. My personal favorite, the old Bill Monroe/Hank Williams classic “Blue and Lonesome” will make die hard bluegrass fans sit up and take this young lady seriously…… her arrangement of the song is so different that everyone listening will be on the edge of their seat. With just a single guitar with a fiddle solo and three part harmony, it is catchy, imaginative and edgy. I don’t know if Big Mon would “Get It” but I’ll bet Hank Williams would be lovin’ it! I know I do!

Yep…… get this one and add it to your 2013 collection!


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