Arkansas Soul Siblings
Arkansas' enduring Cate Brothers kick off this retrospective set with a slamming version of the Bobby "Blue" Bland classic, "Yield Not To Temptation". Here the Cates deliver a more uptempo take on the song, a minor chart hit for Bland in 1962. Earl's sharp guitar lines and Ernie's atmospheric vocal lead the way here; the Brothers later recorded the song on their 1977 eponymous release on Asylum. See more below in Notes on the Recordings...
Friendship Train - The Cate Brothers
Notes on the Recordings
The fellas deliver another slice of Arkansas soul in the following "God Gave Me A Woman", distinguished by a cool intro and some excellent close harmony singing. They slow the tempo down a bit here, enabling them to more clearly showcase the black music influences on their sound.
"We All Got To Help Each Other", another self-written Cates song that appeared on the Crazy Cajun release, again shows the brothers' desire for universal peace and love. Though these tracks were doubtless cut in the early '70s, the Cates' worldview belonged more to the '60s "hippie" philosophy than to the go-go materialism of the '70s decade.
Next we return to the Bobby "Blue" Bland songbook for a fine take on another classic, "Don't Cry No More". This version is faithful to the 1961 original, a 1971 pop charter for Bland. The band kicks right along and Ernie and Earl harmonize nicely on the choruses. This cut was also found on their Crazy Cajun release.
The brothers stay in BBB mode with "You're Worth It All", giving this Bland staple a soft and dreamy reading with Earl's guitar taking the bulk of the instrumental focus. Ernie's vocal floats along beautifully, wrapping the song soulfully.
Earl delivers mysterious, snaky guitar lines to kick off "Rescue Me", another Cates original that asks for help from a "gypsy with a crystal ball", who tells them, "you better watch out, 'cuz trouble is all I see". The group's stylistic similarity to The Band is most evident on "Rescue Me", a selection that kicked off side two of their Crazy Cajun LP.
Ernie's organ gorgeously embellishes "What Makes The World Turn", another Cates original that evinces a decided Bland influence. Earl makes use of some tasty wah-wah guitar which meshes artfully with Ernie's organ and customary soulful vocal. There's a more stately tone here than on any of the previous tracks.
The Cates next move over into Ray Charles territory with "Yes Indeed", with Earl's zesty guitar leading the way on this staple from the songbook of "The Genius". A warm female chorus mimics the Raelettes' fiery call and response and Earl's guitar rides to the close.
"Born To Wander", another selection from the Crazy Cajun album, marches right along in a midtempo vein as the Ernie tells us, "I was born to wander, hitchhike down the road. Ain't got no money, one suit of clothes". While there may be some autobiographical elements in the song (The Cates have surely travelled all over), the fact is they still live near their birthplace of Fayetteville. Some nice falsetto harmonizing near the close sets "Born To Wander" apart from the other selections included here.
"Let's Start All Over" is perhaps the finest love ballad of the set. The timeworn theme of making a fresh start and trying again has rarely been expressed so eloquently in words and music. Ernie's piano and organ gets the spotlight here and both shine gloriously. This superb song is ripe for a contemporary cover by a male or female soul crooner.
The recording world is full of lousy versions of the Beatles chestnut, "Let It Be" -- fortunately this reading is solid and soulful with a fine fuzztone guitar ride by Earl distinguishing it from many inferior versions. Ernie's impassioned singing and keen, restrained backing vocal touches also embellish the Cates' cover. "Let It Be" was also found on the Crazy Cajun album.
The Cates insert a decided funk element into "Living On A Country Side", a tune which must be drawn from their own lives. There is more "bounce" in this paean to chopping wood, fishing and "air that is fresh and clean". They speak of wanting to "live life slow and easy so I can keep my soul satisfied", a sentiment as compelling today as it was over twenty years ago when they wrote the song.
"Can't Live Alone" explores a more mellow side, kicking off with Ernie's soft piano touches. The song, another Cates original, also graced the Crazy Cajun record. Ernie's smooth vocal and the uplifting overall tone of "Can't Live Alone", make it one of this reissue's best selections.
Northwest Arkansas determinism spices "I Made Up My Mind" as we hear of a bad woman: "you hurt me. . . then you desert me" who has been allowed back into a man's heart for the last time. This is a bit of a departure for the brothers as the songs so far have mostly exhorted undying love and other uplifting themes.
"Always Waiting" returns us to a more familiar lyric territory as we listen to the brothers sing of undying devotion in another fine example of mellow Arkansas soul. Earl delivers nifty phased guitar lines and takes a rare lead vocal on this original that talks about "always giving and never asking why".
Ernie's organ is a highlight of "Can't Change My Heart", another song dealing with love's constancy. Earl's guitar takes us on a clever turnaround during this understated love ballad. A later version appeared on their 1975 The Cate Brothers album for Asylum and briefly charted in 1976, reaching # 91.
"When Love Comes", like the previous cut, was later recorded by the Cates on one of their Asylum releases. Earl's guitar work again stands out, a hallmark of this set. This selection dips into a bit of a funk bag and shows off some good brotherly harmonies. Good advice -- "when love comes, you gotta take it".
The Cates return to another of their consistent themes, that of honoring the Golden Rule, in a song that could well be titled, "Love Your Neighbor". Here they tell us, "it seems to me the thing we need is some good old-fashioned kindness. Push aside your foolish pride and selfish hate that blinds us. Love your neighbor, help him when you can. Reach out with love in your heart and think about your fellow man", words we would all be wise to heed.
Blasting trumpets and burping saxes contribute mightily in adding fresh textures to "I Got To Be Your Man", a snappy selection that also features some snazzy guitar runs by Earl. These additions of brass sure makes the listener wish the horn section had been invited to participate on plenty more tracks on the set. Again, Ernie's soul-drenched vocal stands out on this tune espousing a willingness to love unconditionally.
~John Lomax III, January 1999