It’s not quite folk music, though it’s folks that are playing it. It’s not quite power pop, though it’s got power and people like it. Let’s call it power folk. It’s what happened to Tin Cat when they shrank from a five-piece rock band to a drum-free trio. It could happen to anyone.
So they’re mellower than most rock bands, but funkier than most folk acts. They’re playing Beatles songs, but with a mandolin groove on top. They’re inspired by Bill Withers and Bill Monroe, Steve Earle and Steely Dan. They’re playing country songs with electric pianos, Irish airs with electric guitars.
Watch the bass: At a typical performance you might see it in Tom Gewecke’s hands while Erik Ostrom sings “Over Ilsa,” about an unrequited love for a fictional character. Later it goes to Dave Allender while Erik picks up the mandolin for Tom’s rueful, truthful “Out of the Hat.” Maybe Erik plays the bass on Dave’s soulful interplanetary waltz, “Mars.” If you’re lucky, the bass takes a break for a while as the band plays Stevie Wonder’s funky classic “Boogie On Reggae Woman” on guitar, accordion, and ukelele. Things move around a lot.
All the while, it’s held together by the band’s love of strong melodies and rhythmic grooves, by a loose attitude toward tight arrangements, and by the singing. All three members sing their own material and sing along with each other’s. It’s how the band started out, in a way, at an open mike, with Erik helplessly compelled to sing along in the audience every time Dave and Tom played their song “Travis”. Now he sings along on stage.
Mixing acoustic and electric, modern and traditional, rock and folk (and soul, and reggae, and blues, and country, and whatever other shiny object catches their collective eye), Tin Cat is making its own sound. Let’s call it power folk. We’ve got to call it something.