REVIEW: Catherine McGrath – ‘Talk Of This Town’

‘Talk Of This Town’ is the highly anticipated debut album from possibly the most talked about UK Country front runner, Catherine McGrath (hey, she really is the ‘Talk Of This Town’). Now, I don’t want to echo what everyone has else has been saying, be it good or bad. In fact, I’m not even going to mention ‘that’ name that has been glued to Catherine’s side since she started releasing music. Even if this album does kind of fill a void that a lot of us have felt since 2014, McGrath deserves to stand alone, she deserves the success and compliments, no matter who her influences are.

Talk of This Town opens with the song of the same name. I’ve got to admit, for some strange reason, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this track when it was first released as a single. Contrary to that, with the immediate experience of listening to the album, this track gave me some sort of excitement and pride, it had me drawn in and addicted. It’s a perfect opener, and a delicious taste of what the album holds. This album is sliced perfectly down the middle with a slick mixture of up-beat, fast tempo tracks, that are a divine example of country pop today. Only to be paired with a side of the Irish beauty we haven’t had much of an insight into. Songs such as ‘Thought It Was Gonna Be Me’ and ‘She’ll Never Love You’ brings out McGrath’s younger sense of maturity.

A highlight track for me is the rockier ‘Dodged A Bullet’ which is the story of a toxic relationship. Layered with an ensemble of string instruments, intertwining melodic guitar licks and singular acoustic chords highlighting standout lyrics such as “if I dodged a bullet, why I am I still hurting? I know you’re a lost cause, why am I still searching?” I bet this song will be a favourite in a live setting as apparently this is also Catherine’s favourite to play live. I can imagine this bringing out the sassy fighter in McGrath.

A complete u-turn from this to perhaps the folkiest song on the album is the delicate duet with Hunter Hayes, ‘Don’t Let Me Forget’. This track results in you getting lost in a romantic relationship that McGrath created in the writing of the song. With Hayes and McGrath as the protagonists, it enhances this belief, as the way the two voices melt together is completely untarnished. I loved this song the first time I heard it and I still think it’s one of the outstanding songs on the album. I believe it will withstand the Radio 2 test of time, it’s just gorgeous. The fact this was a solo write from McGrath is very impressive – the lyrics are laid out impeccably, and the story flows as if you were walking through the park hand in hand with your lover.

Not only does ‘Cinderella’ feel like coming home for me (such a beautiful song), but it is one of the several penned with top Nashville songwriters. It is a well-known fact that ‘Cinderella’ was written with immense songwriter Liz Rose (Girl Crush, Cry Pretty). McGrath also got creative with insanely classified writers such as Nicolle Galyon (Tequila, Female) and Jimmy Robbins (I Could Use a Love Song, All Nighter). This, I feel backs up my belief that Catherine McGrath may very well be the first UK Country artist to break the states. She has the songs, the voice, you can hear clearly the American influence she holds. If she’s writing with these songwriters now, this early in her career at 21 years old, can you even imagine in a few years’ time? I can’t wait, that’s for sure.

Sprinkled throughout the album are a mixture of tracks we already know well and new tracks that are exclusive to ‘Talk Of This Town’ such as ‘The Edges’ which is a lyrically strong, emotive tune, using shapes and edges as a metaphor for a relationship. ‘Enough For You’ dabbles in the more poppier side of Catherine’s music, it would not surprise me if this track was released as a single. No doubt it would soar up the charts. Rounding off the album has got to be the most emotional song from this body of work, ‘She’ll Never Love You’. The way this song is added to the end of the album so modestly, only results in the track to stand so tall alone. Backed up with a simplistic arrangement of keys and strings. The finality of this album is all about the sweet and pure vocal from Catherine and the incredibly emotional, helpless lyric.

Catherine McGrath has completely won me over with this album. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I wasn’t a fan to begin with, I think I’d just let her previous releases go straight over my head, which after listening to this album, seems an impossible feat. ‘Talk Of This Town’ is an honest, sensitive and passionate insight into McGrath’s diary. You can hear the passion she exudes in these songs. I believe in a true songwriter’s sense, this is McGrath’s form of therapy – her songs are so telling and genuine. People love that, and it’s obvious to see the pride and love the UK feel for Miss McGrath. This girl has a very bright future, and she certainly has everything she needs to dominate.

Shannon Hynes