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Let the Cat Out

w/ Trumps


Release the felines! It's Let the Cat Out! This new funk/roots outfit has been heating Hobart venues to an ever-widening fan base. On a September's eve they attracted hipsters, hippies and myself to the Republic Bar for a night of great music. But before discussing the performance let us consider who or what this Cat is and ask the question: from where has it been let out?

  

Let the Cat Out is comprised of the following members. Firstly, the soul: Hammond organist Randal Muir. This man is a Hobart keyboard institution and can be found any night of the week on the Hammond, piano or accordion at Lisbon, Rectango courtyard or Queens Head playing jazz, gypsy, gospel or funk. I first caught his effortless manner and infectious grin at Temple Place many moons ago playing with the following cat: saxophonist Alistair Dobson. He is musically as versatile as Muir and his sheet of sound solos frequently hint at a Coltrane discipleship. The omnipresent Henry Nichols plays timekeeper and brings the swing and the splash, all driven by his maniacal focused stare. Guitarist Gillan Gregory, an Unleash the Nugget alumnus, has unbridled energy and enthusiasm. He plays as if possessed, as if Medusa's snakes are freeing themselves through his skull. The fifth and final member is Jane McArthur, singer and sometime percussionist. Like Dobson, she is also understated and has a good-natured stage presence, singing with sultry tones. Though all these members have been prevalent on the Hobart scene for some time, apart from Gregory it seems that this is one of the first "band" projects that could appeal to a broader cross section of listeners? Why? Because insteaad of jamming on instrumentals or covers, which may not always appeal, this outfit write their own songs. The Cat in question is skilfully played soul, funk and roots music that long has been a mainstay of the Hobart jazz/jam scene. Now it is coming packaged for wider and much deserved appreciation.

  

At the risk of sounding like a press release let us wind back our aural clocks to that fateful Spring night and discuss the two sets that this band played to a crowd who was ready to dance, warmed up by other local outfit Trumps. First time attendees to a LTCO gig may well wonder where the groovy bass lines are coming from. Like another cat, Jimmy Smith, Muir lays down the bottom end using his deft feet upon the Hammond's pedals.

  

The first song, modelled on Booker T's Green Onions, sets the scene. Like the MGs, LTCO have a rock solid rhythm section. As MacArthur's voice and lyrics sometimes get lost through the groove, the melody does not always feature as strongly as it should but instead comes across as laid-back scat. The band skilfully jumps between classic soul to more modern roots and reggae head boppers. The first set concludes with my highlight of the night and a sure sign to the band's direction. A recently written laid-back number, None the Wiser, was one song that did feature a strong vocal line culminating with a perfect organ solo. This is a timeless soul tune, the genre so named because it should lift its namesake. This song did.

  

Second set started off with a breakneck funk/soul-jazz instrumental, revealing another of the band's influences - Soulive. If the room wasn't hotter enough before this, it was now truly up to temperature. Though a few slower numbers were sprinkled into this set, LTCO kept it live through blistering solos from Dobson and Gregory, both well aware of how to work the crowd into a frenzy with slowly climatic and soulfully executed improvisations. Gregory enjoys playing the crowd not just with his instrument but also vocally, interacting with cheeky call and responses and frequently extolling the virtues of his fellow musicians. With nods to Madness, solid grooves like Truth Pie and Freight Train, a cracking drum solo and some more super funk, the cats finished with a song that appears to be their signature tune: Who's That Man. Some people were singing along. This is even before the LTCO album has been released. Signs of a growing fan base.

  

Though the musicianship is strong, Let The Cat Out will gel more and more. If songs like None the Wiser are a demonstration of their abilities, not just of their playing but of their writing, then it is well worth the time and space to witness this bag of soul spilling out their funky kittens many more times.

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