Having drawn comparisons to artist such as Jeff Tweedy, and Will Oldham, Chris has risen from the ranks of everyday singer-songwriter to a national touring favorite, spending the early part of 2007 on the road with Saturday Looks Good to Me and making his first trip to the SXSW Music Festival. Releasing three album with great success on his own in 2006, Chris was then named the 'Best Solo Artist in Michigan' by Real Detroit Weekly, and was later approached by YerBird Records to provide a track on their upcoming compilation featuring additions from the likes of Hayden, O'Death & Paleo. Chris' new record, a cork tale wake was recorded in early 2007 by Ann Arbor legend Jim Roll and features musicians from the burgeoning indie-folk scene of southeast Michigan. Haunting string arrangements surround Chris' steely voice, inimitable guitar, and introspective songwriting, leaving the listener with a want to hear more, an inqusitive ear to listen more closely, and a hunger to search out the remainder of Chris' material. This album is as comfortable in a creaking, drafty wood floored farm house as it is on a porch swing during the summer in suburban Nowheresville, USA and speaks to both places equally well.
Chris Bathgate's songs are connected to the Midwest much in the same way R.E.M.'s early work was connected to the South. Michigan and Illinois aren't just locations -- they're a haunting chill, a tidal force, a mood that hangs in his lyrics like frozen fog. In other words, this isn't just folk music -- this is Middle American Gothic. And those familiar with Bathgate's previous work will be pleased to find that this preoccupation with place (not to mention loss and heartache) hasn't been lost on his first big indie release, A Cork Tale Wake. It does feel different from his previous work, insofar as it deviates from the bluegrassy, old-timey stuff that dominated his two previous releases. He sounds focused; there's a wider array of instrumentation here (spidery E-bows, scrunchy trumpets, and haunting distortion), but this album nonetheless manages to sound more reined in than Bathgate's earlier releases. It's a sound that nods to Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot -- browbeaten Americana torn through with layers of sprawling reverb -- and the change feels right. Bathgate's songs hang beautifully in this new setting, like rustic paintings mounted in high-quality frames. Naturally, it helps that A Cork Tale Wake contains some of Bathgate's most mature songwriting to date; tracks like Every Wall You Own, The Last Wine of Winter, and The Last Parade on Ann St. (a reference to a street in Ann Arbor, MI) all stand among his finest work. A Cork Tale Wake is a somber album, but that just goes with the territory. This is the Midwest, after all; the winters are hard and many of the songs are sad. --All Music Guide
If Bathgate has mastered one thing in his young and enormously promising career, it's the art of distilling alienation into bruised-sounding beauty. --NPR (Song of the Day)
A beautiful album that will appeal to fans of Okkervil River and Wilco. This is the first i've heard of this guy, but i'm betting it won't be the last. --Performing Songwriter