MUSIC REVIEW: NAVIGATOR SETS CATTLE & CANE ON COURSE FOR SUCCESS

The Teesside group’s fourth studio album is packed with tunes you’ll want to hear again and again, that sound even better live

MUSIC REVIEW: NAVIGATOR SETS CATTLE & CANE ON COURSE FOR SUCCESS
Cattle & Cane release their new album, Navigator, on the 8th November

Middlesbrough’s astonishing early 19th Century growth from farm village to bustling industrial town lead future Prime Minister, William Gladstone, to say : “This remarkable place, the youngest child of England’s enterprise, is an infant, but if an infant, an infant Hercules.”

If the town had remained furtive outside of these parts before then, it’s role at the coalface of the nation’s unheralded advancements was a secret no more.

The North-East’s Ironopolis was soon to be recognised the World over as Bolckow & Vaughan and later Dorman Long exported tonnes and tonnes of Steel that replicated the qualities of the people who made it; tough, durable and splendid.

But while these tales of Middlesbrough’s history may feel a world apart from the outlook from the Eston Hills today – the blast furnaces running much colder than they did during these halcyon days – the flames of another industry on Teesside is burning bright.

Exports of our musical acts to national audiences continues to grow at pace, with the likes of James Arthur and Dylan Cartlidge typifying the level of roaring talent that can be found across the banks of the River Tees.

And through their new album Navigator, another product of the local music industry are setting their own course towards celebrated success.

Remember the name, Cattle & Cane.

“This is the music we’ve always wanted to be making”

From humble beginnings, this addictive family-centric folk-rock group, led by brother and sister duo Joseph and Helen Hammill, were always going to amass a loyal, local fan-base, on the back of the iconic Teesside anthem Infant Hercules, with the lyrics to later adorn the inside of Middlesbrough Football Club’s shirts for the 2018/19 season.

But much wider recognition is surely yet to come for this abundantly talented unit, given their latest release – Navigator, which is set to launch on 8th November – is the type of album you can’t help but play on repeat.

Building on the success of their 2017 breakout album Mirrors – which saw ‘feel good’ hit single 7 Hours streamed over 2 million times and musical royalty Elton John purring “God, I love that!” of opening track Love on Your Hands – Cattle & Cane’s latest offering display’s a honing of their craft, ably assisted by producer Pete Hammerton (Kylie Minogue, The Shires).

“Lyrically, this album is definitely our most introspective and heart on sleeve,” reflected lead singer-songwriter Joe.

“For the first time ever, we took a step back last year and actually thought about how Cattle & Cane should sound and where we want to take it.”

And co-songwriter and vocalist Helen couldn’t have been more pleased with the album’s outcome.

She said: “As we are growing up as artists, our music taste has been growing up too and I think that’s reflected on Navigator.”

“This is the music we’ve always wanted to be making and we’re so happy with how this album has turned out. It’s the proudest we’ve been of anything we’ve worked on.

“We’ve always been ambitious, but I think locking ourselves away with Pete for the last few months has enabled us to create some songs that really justify our ambition.”

Cattle & Cane's Helen Hamill during the groups performance of tracks from new album Navigator at The Westgarth Social Club
Cattle & Cane’s Helen Hamill during the groups performance of tracks from new album Navigator at The Westgarth Social Club

Intoxicating licks mixed with heart-felt lyrics

With headline single Mexico already released to rave reviews and featuring as BBC Introducing’s Track of the Week, fans and newcomers already have an idea what to expect from the new album.

But this strong start doesn’t abate, with the simply beautiful Lion Or The Lamb alongside the gloriously poppy Leave The Light On typical examples of the albums wonderfully constructed rise and fall in moods and constant flow of intoxicating licks.

The arrangements for each of the tracks is simply sublime and mixed with a stream of heart-felt and memorable lyrics, this is a record that will have you belting out track after track whist stuck in traffic on the A66 – none more so than opening track Neighbourhood, which with the addition of some jingle bells, would be a surefire year-on-year Christmas hit.

An album that at it’s core centres around the journey of heartbreak and the conflicting emotions that come with that, you should be in no doubt this is a musical masterpiece by a Teesside group coming of age – even if this theme wasn’t necessary apparent to Joe until everything had come together.

He said: “It was only once we’d finished recording all of the songs that I realised how many of them are about failed relationships.”

“Loving The Hurt Away was the last song written for the album and it pretty much sums up the whole record and concludes the stage I’m at in life right now”

Cattle & Cane lead Joe Hamill, who said the "failed relationship" theme across new album Navigator only became apparent "once we’d finished recording"
Cattle & Cane lead Joe Hamill, who said the “failed relationship” theme across new album Navigator only became apparent “once we’d finished recording”

A very special live performance

While the album is sure to provide hour on hour of listening pleasure, of course the true test of any artist these days is how those songs translate themselves into live performances.

And on the judgement of Cattle & Cane’s recent ‘secret’ preview performance of their new material, to a select gathering of fans and music press at the Westgarth Social Club, it was quickly apparent why they have been consistently playing to sell-out gigs and gracing major festivals such as T In The Park and BBC Radio 2’s Live in Hyde Park.

The night’s set list beautifully interspersed firm favourites alongside debut tracks to provide the “guinea pigs” in attendance an evening of musical nirvana within the always intimate venue that is the Westgarth.

Performing fourteen songs plus an encore in all, picking a favourite of the evening might have proven difficult, with Wish I Knew Jesus (Like You Do) and Mexico from the new album providing a punchy start and close respectively, whilst the communal sign-a-longs to Infant Hercules and Skies from their debut album Home were memorable highlights.

But it was impossible not to be taken away by the evening’s performance of Dancing, another track that features on Cattle & Cane’s first album as a live performance and really showcases the groups collective ability as being much more than the sum of their parts.

And whilst a song about making mistakes might seem a strange choice as a wedding song, you can see why so many have chosen this as the soundtrack to mark their most special day, given this gracefully paired back and moving song wouldn’t feel out of place on an episode of Dawson’s Creek.

With the evenings smaller venue also contributing to the overall ambience of the track, the collective feeling from the few of us that were gathered was inescapable – we had just witnessed a very special live performance – from Teesside’s own, musical, Infant Hercules.

Cattle & Cane’s New Album Navigator is released on the 8th November 

Copies can be purchased through Cattle & Cane’s website; www.cattleandcane.co.uk

Cattle & Cane’s UK Wide Navigator Tour concludes; 8th November, Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle & 12th November, Oslo Hackney, London. 

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