My first brush with Cari Hutson was a wonderfully random occurrence. In 2019, my wife and I attended a Black Fret showcase at the 04 Center on South Congress. We were there to see Moving Panoramas and ended up sticking around for Ms. Hutson.
Two hours later, we walked out saying, “Well, I know who’s getting a major grant this year.” We were blown away by Cari Hutson’s spellbinding stage presence, powerful vocals, and gigantic heart for those she’s musically connecting with. And with her latest EP “Salvation & Soul Restoration” set to drop on February 12th during a livestream at the Saxon Pub, fans can expect a record that reflects our times in a thoughtful, emotional way.
A Little Bit Janis, A Lot-a-Bit Cari
Austin-born, Louisiana-raised, Cari Hutson began her musical journey as a young woman walking in the French Quarter absorbing live jazz through open windows. Inspired by the notion that music could be a career, she returned to Central Texas to study musical theater. There she discovered the power of her voice and the connections it can create.
“There’s a theatrical aspect to the way I perform,” shared Cari. “The main difference between theater and a rock concert is that you can break the fourth wall, look into someone’s eyes, and create a connection. Knowing I’m making an impact through song is my favorite part of the performance.”
Upon dropping out of college to pursue music full time, Cari worked in a number of bands before playing the lead in “A Night With Janis Joplin” on stage. Impressed by her soulful portrayal of the legendary singer, drummer Dave Getz of Big Brother and the Holding Company gave Cari the rights to “Can’t Be the Only One,” a song written for but never performed by Janis Joplin.
In 2018, Cari and her band Good Company featured the song on “Don’t Rain on My Sunny Day” to local acclaim. Since then, Cari’s played dozens of shows, embraced live streaming, and was awarded the Black Fret grant my wife and I predicted after her 04 Center show. And now, with five new tracks ready to hit the world, there’s nothing but good things ahead for this one-of-a-kind performer.
Salvation & Soul Restoration
Cari’s latest record is an evolution of her core sound pointed towards two clear themes: encouragement and empowerment. Each of the five songs make up a singular album statement that’s resonant during our current state of personal, political, and emotional unrest. And yes, the tunes absolutely soar.
The record’s first single is “Blame,” a pointed political statement that calls for those in power to take responsibility for their actions as opposed to reveling in the usual rhetoric. A thumping funk/rock anthem in the style of Gary Clark Jr., Cari and her husband/writing partner Hunter hustled to get it done in time for the 2020 election.
“Hunter and I were sitting on the porch of his family home in Galveston, processing the day, talking about the upcoming election”, shared Cari. “He said something like, ‘they all blame, blame, blame’ and the words stuck. When we got back to Austin, I started singing the words to him, he got out his looping pedal and went to town on it, and the song just came out. It was very organic.”
Following “Blame” on the release schedule was “The Rescue,” a striking and emotionally bare cry for help during troubled times. Written during a period of personal upheaval and change, the song begs the listener to look inward for the strength to reach out. The result is a delicate yet poignant ballad that resonates with an honesty that’s rare in a world full of Insta-obsessed artists.
However, if “Salvation & Soul Restoration” is an essay on forgiveness, acceptance, and hope, “Take the Day” is its thesis. Emblematic of everything Hutson does well, the track opens with the subtle plucks of a summer acoustic guitar and blooms into a country/rock anthem of outsized proportions. Hutson’s jaw-dropping vocals are stirring, inspiring, and full of the passion longtime fans have come to love.
The record rounds out with the funky, crunchy go-get-em jam “Stand Up” and “My Breath,” a smokey Southern rock tune that adds welcome heat to the EP. Each of the five songs pulls its weight and creates a cohesive emotional narrative that mines life’s ups and downs through thoughtful, well-crafted songwriting and out-of-this-world performances. Big fancy words to say I like this record quite a bit!
More On the Horizon
With the pandemic continuing to grind live music to a halt, Cari’s embraced the world of live streaming. Although her streams have slowed over the last few months, she continues to write music with her husband and a new band, PACK. Comprised of Paige DeChausse of The Reverent Few, Andrea Magee from Beat Root Revival, and Kelly Green and Violet Lea, both from Madam Radar, the five-some feels like a supergroup of vocal talent.
Cari will also be celebrating the release of “Salvation & Soul Restoration” via a Saxon Pub livestream on February 12th. While it won’t be the same as a true concert experience, watching Cari perform these tunes on stage will be a must-see stream.
When talking about the present, the future, and her brand new EP, I was struck by how real Cari was as a person and a performer. Based on our conversation, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I just really hope people take the 22 minutes and hear the songs from tip to top and experience the EP from beginning to end,” shared Cari. “It’s a gift from me to you and I just want to give a little encouragement and hope.”
Cari Huston’s EP, “Salvation & Soul Restoration” will be available for purchase and on streaming services on February 12th. Check out www.carihutson.com for all the details.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Are you a current Cari Hutson fan? If so, tell us how you discovered her music!