“After many spins in recent days, Conundrum turns out to be a beautiful long player by a gifted musician.”
Michael Schatte – Conundrum
Album Review by Jaks Schuit
Real Roots Café, The Netherlands, Dec. 28th, 2020
One can read many superlatives in the reviews for Turn Back The Vikings, the 2015 release by Canadian musician Michael Schatte. His unique blend of genres was delivered on that album with stunning impact, to quote a journalist. Canadian critics were proud of a new talent. After that praise and many gigs, Schatte has taken the time to develop a sequel. Conundrum has fifteen new songs, but took five years to arrive. The first conclusion is that this follow-up full-length by Michael Schatte was worth the wait!
After just one listen, this is a provisionally positive conclusion. Michael Schatte is a musician with a fan base that grew considerably with performances supporting Turn Back The Vikings. Schatte continued to play fearlessly, building on that growing crowd but not yet thinking of a follow up album. With the songs from that album and some covers, he was able to blow the roof off of any venue.
After shows in Canada and abroad it was time to think about another album. In no rush, he wrote new material and did not go for an obligatory successor with only ten songs. Conundrum, a word that means an unsolvable problem or riddle, has no fewer than fifteen tracks. Here Schatte shows his skills as a songsmith, but also shows his admiration for others. Eclectic Electric Roots Music. That’s how he describes it.
Opener “Water In The Kettle” is a rock track dipped in roots music. Fast fingers play what turns out to be an endlessly exciting outro. “Daria” is a rocking love song. Schatte likes to look at relationships and sing about them in amazement. “Please Don’t Dance With My Brother” is about an ex who is interested in Schatte’s brother. Apart from the theme, it is a steaming blues-rocker. “Longtime Lover” follows and delivers more than four minutes of excitement fit for a stage. The poet John B. Lee can be heard in “Bread, Water, Love”. He wrote/recites a simple poem and Schatte used it to craft a song imbued with respect and admiration. He does the same for Richard Thompson. In closing track “Good King Richard” he combines three traditional tunes and Thompson’s “The Knife Edge” into a beautiful instrumental apotheosis.
After many spins in recent days, Conundrum turns out to be a beautiful long player by a gifted musician. Schatte looks at the state of the world with a worried, furrowed brow. The fifteen songs do not provide answers in all cases, but they ensure that the world is a better place for more than an hour. Enjoy!
Translated from the original Dutch.