By: Julia Simon
Eminem, Beth Orton, and Blur may appear to have little in common, but all three have named something after a trailer park. Catfish Haven, a trio of swamp-rockers whose Southern-fried riffs conjure up Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket (both of whom the trio have opened for), also find roots in the world of double-wides: They’re named after the site of frontman George Hunter’s childhood mobile home in rural Missouri.
When Hunter moved to Chicago in 2002, he teamed up with fellow skateboarders Miguel Castillo and Ryan Farnham, and the three eventually swapped their interest in Tony Hawk for “Free Bird.” They quickly infiltrated the Windy City’s music scene with their down-home brand of rock that’s a too sophisticated to be labeled “redneck.”
On their debut EP, Please Come Back, Catfish Haven’s blues-infused ballads (“The Love I’m Saving”) and boozy trots (“Please Come Back”) possess equal amounts of backwoods authenticity and cosmopolitan flair. They may harvest most of their mojo from south of the Mason-Dixon (check the Band-inspired harmonies of “Still Hungover”), but they bleed metropolitan with undeniable garage-grime charm and power-pop arrangements reminiscent of the Strokes. Like Julian Casablancas’, Hunter’s worn-in croon wraps itself around lyrics with whiskey-soaked ease.
The trio only falters with “Crying Shame,” which drifts like a bad bar ballad, but they make up for it on “The Love I’m Saving,” in which a beautifully weepy guitar interlude precedes a coda that finds Hunter repeatedly screeching “Baby” with the zeal of a Southern revivalist preacher.
Please Come Back arrives Jan. 24 on Secretly Canadian.
Catfish Haven tour dates:
1/20, Madison, WI (High Noon Saloon) 1/21, Minneapolis, MN (The Nomad Pub) 2/2. Bloomington, IN (Second Story) 2/4, Chicago, IL (Subterranean – CD release party) 2/8, Lansing, MI (Macs Bar) 2/9, Detroit, MI (Lager House) 2/10, New York, NY (Knitting Factory Tap Bar)