She’s been called one of Canada’s best songwriters. Kat Goldman gained a local cult following in Toronto back in 2002, when she released her debut The Great Disappearing Act. The record, produced by Juno Award winner Gavin Brown, so impressed New York City manager Ron Fierstein (Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams), that he flew up to one of her shows and signed her on the spot.
Kat’s songs have been covered by an array of artists worldwide, including Grammy-Nominated band The Duhks, and prolific American singer-songwriter Dar Williams, who has been one of her great supporters.
Two-time winner of the International Songwriting Competition out of Nashville, Kat went on to make her second album, Sing Your Song, in 2007, after she suffered a near-fatal accident when a car came crashing into a store. CBC Radio named it one of the top ten albums of the year.
Kat moved to Boston in 2009 to study English Literature at Boston University. During this time she recorded Gypsy Girl (2013), which explored her wanderlust and the yearning for home. Ron Sexsmith sent a personal email congratulating her on its title track, after hearing the demo.
Kat has been commissioned numerous times to pen songs for television, movies, short films, and documentaries. Comedian Kenny Hotz asked her to re-adapt her well-loved folk ballad Annabel, to be used as the theme song for his series Triumph of the Will. Montreal Filmmaker Ezra Soiferman had Kat write a featured song for his CBC Documentary Channel film Grass Fed. Her song Annabel was featured in the popular television series Hell on Wheels, and was also quoted from in author Kathleen Winter’s Giller Prize-nominated novel Annabel.
Kat’s newest and fourth release, The Workingman’s Blues, is by far Kat’s best album to date. Produced by Bill Bell in Toronto, the songs tell a story of a young, tough punk from Boston, who tries to overcome his hard scrabble past of poverty, economic rage and resentment, family violence, and drug abuse. The songs range from country rock, to pop, to punk and even gospel.
Kat also tells the story of Harry, in The Courthouse, an elderly black man from the neighborhood who became a dear friend. Harry’s story reveals the darker side of life in America. Convicted of domestic violence when younger, Harry is a man who continues to re-invent himself later in his life, becoming a mentor to black youth, standing as president of the committee of the project in which he lives, and volunteering as a basketball coach at the local high school. In The Courthouse, Harry must psychologically pay his dues, having to defend himself against a resentful ex who tries to frame him for something he didn’t do:
We went down to the Courthouse
Just to even out the score
Said “I don’t want any trouble
And you know I’m getting old,
And I know I’ve done some bad things
But I’m not like that anymore,”
And he shook his head and he said ‘”C’mon,”
And we walked back out the door.
Kat calls The Workingman’s Blues her first rock musical, told from the narrator’s point of view. The lyrics initially reflect anger at the workingman’s shortcomings, but moves towards compassion and understanding for his plight:
Baby I know that you couldn’t pay me back
You had to get on your feet
Get on a track
Back to a land that’s made of tin.
(From Baby, I Understand).
“The truth is if you don’t have the money to live in a better neighborhood, then you won’t get a good education. It is not possible to live on minimum wage in Massachusetts. There will be times you need help just to buy milk and gas. If you don’t belong to a union, and you have a boss who mistreats and then fires you, then how can you pay for healthcare when you need it?”
“I began writing these songs while living in Boston. I could not ignore the changing urban climate around me. Boston was a microcosm of America’s social upheaval at the time. Gun violence was on the rise, racial tensions were palpable, police brutality was being documented on cell phones and television news; an entire working class was suffering the impact of job loss from offshore manufacturing, and low pay immigrant workers. “
The Workingman’s Blues speaks to the spirit of a moment in America, when empathy for the disadvantaged is more crucial than ever.
Kat eventually left Boston after her degree, having been profoundly changed by what she had seen living in the U.S. Perhaps the centerpiece of the album is Don’t Know Where I’m Bound, and speaks to the narrator’s sadness of leaving an America which at one time held many hopes for her:
Clock bell strikes on the hour and I am still in love with him
But if you change your city you can start over again
Time to say goodbye to the American Dream
I’m going back, I’m going back, to Canada
And I don’t know where I’m bound anymore
Better get yourself a ticket at the scratch ticket store
No I don’t know where I’m bound anymore
I don’t know where I’m bound.
The Workingman’s Blues will be released in summer of 2017.