Barricades is a confident five-song debut EP from newcomer Steve Katz. While born and bred in Brussels, Belgium, Katz is now living in New York City. Judging from Barricades, it is a more than appropriate home base for him.
I say this as the opening verse of “Thrive,” the EP’s first track, suggests Katz would have been quite at home during the heyday of the Greenwich Village singer-songwriter folk scene. These days, performers like Judy Collins or Phil Ochs who once surrounded their singing and acoustic guitar work with slick, supporting players would more likely be labeled indie pop or adult contemporary than folk rock. Such is the case for Katz.
Whatever umbrella you want to put him under, Katz clearly sees himself as an artist with things to say, both lyrically and musically. “Thrive,” for example, showcases Katz’s strong, masculine voice singing affirming lines about living life to its fullest. Likewise, “Today I Saw Hope,” based on volunteer work in Knoxville, Tennessee, was inspired by two African-American women feeding the hungry. Katz’s liner notes state the title song, “Barricades,” represents what he had to go through to get where he’s at today—that is, to accomplish your goals, you must struggle through the obstacles of life.
Considerable credit should go to several lyricists such as Jane Jacobs for “Fair” and Harry Sauer for “A Modern Tale.” The latter is notable for its interesting imagery, such as “salty pearls running down my face” and “the tattoo of your lips.” “Tale” is about a resolute recovery from a broken relationship, a high note Katz says ends the set with a final positive message.
Sure, comparisons can be drawn to artists in a similar vein: Nora Jones certainly, Gordon Lightfoot perhaps, a bit of Neil Diamond? Whatever genre you want to put him in, or other performers he might remind you of, from start to finish, the uplifting themes of Steve Katz are underlined by sparkling, very polished instrumentation and harmony vocal support. If nothing else, Barricades should serve as a perfect demo to intrigue any record company interested in this breed of pop. Until one of them takes notice, perhaps Barricades is the sort of music you might need for a quick pick-me-up.