First Listen: Chris Catalena & the Native Americans “Telegram”

Psychedelic cowboy pianist releases debut LP this week

First Listen: Chris Catalena & the Native Americans “Telegram”
photo by Marie Ely

A familiar face and kind soul among Austin's musician ranks, Chris Catalena has played sideman in Christian Bland & the Revelators and Strange Boys offshoot Living Grateful. He steps forth with his solo debut, Here Comes the Time, this week, via American Sharks drummer Nick Cornetti’s Pau Wau Records.

Catalena says the song “Telegram” wasn’t actually intended for release. Mined from a recording session in 2010, the cutesy, oddball track finds the lanky local pianist in duet with actress and singer Stephanie Hunt, who he discovered when she was singing backup with T-Bird & the Breaks. Catalena wrote “Telegram” for Hunt after her manager suggested she add a song to her portfolio. He tracked piano, 12-string acoustic guitar, and harmonica while Hunt bowed a violin and Jon Aldereson cut bass and drums.

“We had some magic happen on that track,” remembers the Bryan, Tex., native “drawn like a bug to the light of the big city in Austin” ten years ago. “There was an old landline in the studio and in the middle of the song you can hear me pick up the phone and get that message ‘Your call cannot be completed as dialed…beep’ The tone just blended right into the chords we were playing.”

After recording an album“s worth of material in Los Angeles with the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Rob Campenella, it occurred to Catalena that the old take of “Telegram” with its feminine vocals and schizophrenic breakdown would add diversity to his full length effort. Campenella mixed the track and sequenced it into Here Comes the Time. Perhaps the recording worked for Hunt as well. She appeared in an episode of “Glee” this year.

Chris Catalena & the Native Americans celebrate the release of Here Comes the Time Friday at the North Door and Sunday, 5pm at Waterloo Records.

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