A musician will often dig into their past work for inspiration, gaining some additional insight through the lens of time and experience. And that’s exactly what Chattanooga artist Katrina Barclay has done with her latest record, “Natural State (Element, Revisited),” which finds her rummaging through the tracks of her 2016 record, “Element,” to find a deeper understanding of how she’s grown as a person and songwriter. Dropping the more muscular arrangements found on the original recordings in favor of something a bit more stripped-down, she discovers that the songs stand on their own regardless of their rhythmic appearance.
Sometimes, however, the change is subtle. Not all the tracks on “Element” are especially dense, and on those, she adapts the song’s existing skeleton into a persuasive melodic variant, a modest shift in sound that stays true to its original intent but slightly alters its presentation. Barclay’s sound is reminiscent of artists like Florence + the Machine and Lykke Li with a Southern edge, but she’s able to incorporate some fairly familiar influences into an aesthetic that holds to its own rules and inclinations.
She’s also gone one step further and opened a line of communication with her fans by including a separate commentary for each song and three new demo tracks for our consideration. They retain the emotional clarity of their predecessors while exploring a new perspective on how she comes to shape these musical narratives. The guitar is still her best friend, but she pulls back on its density, relying instead on lithe melodies and ethereal vocals to form the bones of this album.
“Natural State (Element, Revisited)” is less a dramatic redo—although the alterations can be considerable—than it is a revision. However, in this case, there was nothing to fix. Her voice is still strong and confident, the sound of a self-assured musician who is taking a well-earned walk through the past to glean some revelation in her present. And with each divergence through the depths of that previous record, we’re shown just how expressive, malleable and responsive Barclay’s sound can be.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.