Artist Feature: Emerging folk singer Cale Hawkins (NMF Winner Ep 59)

Cale Hawkins’s track “The Ferryman” was one of the most gripping first-listen “wow” reactions I’ve had all year. It really is that kind of powerful influence and I can’t totally explain why. Whether it’s the intricate lyrics or the overall theatrical feeling of the track, you can tell there’s some songwriting prowess behind the song. After Hawkins won the NMF contest, I was excited to learn more about him as an artist and hear more of his stuff.

The first and most important release from Hawkins this year is “The Ferryman.” It’s got a mysterious folk element to it with sampling of tweeting birds and an underlying old school piano. In an age of so many electronic tricks and contrivances, it’s nice to hear some classic piano and vocal work. “When life feels like a noose, cut me loose and float me gently out to sea. Please don’t wake me up for if you do I might be stuck inside my dreams.” What a great lyric and sentiment. For a young, emerging dreamer, I hope he can continue to tap into such captivating sentiments.

The following “2:30 Tuesday” is another unique song, again highlighting the traditional piano and vocal combination. The composition is just as haunting as the first. The string work on the song comes across like the work of someone who is trained beyond the standard pop repetoire. I’d love to ask Hawkins about that at some point. But there’s definitely a Beatles style to the pop turn in this song. The collective vocal (probably studio layering) gives the song performative texture. What I mean is that it pulls me in. I want to hear how it ends.

“A Little More Time” takes on a different hue altogether. It’s less folk and a bit more into an experimental pop realm. But then “Pine Overcoats” gets a bit more back to the folk sentiments. The recording quality is different on this one, but the core of the song is still interesting. There’s a Lewis Carroll kind of dreamy sensiblity to this track.

The last track “Polyester Day” is an unconventional song that blends together elements of folk, pop, and 70s rock. It’s a really enjoyable track that puts me in mind of the classic band Three Dog Night. “Every day feels like a mascarade.” Wow! IT’s really a hidden gem, just sitting out there on Soundcloud with fewer than 500 plays. Give it a spin and I guarantee you’ll get grooving in your chair. It’s mindful and curious in all the right ways.

If you’re just learning about Cale Hawkins, definitely give him a follow and keep an eye on his emerging career. He’ll continue to take off because he has what so many others lack; he’s a true artist that can combine both emotive songscapes with incredibly thoughtful lyrics. I don’t want to throw any heavyweight names for comparison, but let’s just say Hawkins is a special talent we surely don’t hear every day.

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