Kitchen Days (Borealis Records)
One of the stranger side-effects of the current pandemic is that it will inevitably make an album like Kitchen Days seem as though it came from an era we can barely remember. Full of low-key musings on restaurant industry jobbing, Kitchen Days is also something of a reverie on working and living at the margins, something most young musicians are fully experienced at.
There are too many acute lyrical touches to mention (“Scotty cooks burgers, gravy and grease, got a hole in his smile, where a tooth should be” from Song for the Line Cook is a current fave), sewn together in a way that should make any fan of John Prine or John Hartford sit up and take notice.
Gates and producer Harry Gregg have opted to strip things back to musical basics on his fourth release; plenty of expertly finger-picked guitar, woodwind, and clattering drumsticks on Employee of the Month, rasping violin (foot tapping softly in the background) propelling Norah Jones at Closing Time.
The Fort Saskatchewan native has been known to throw a few curveballs, and on Kitchen Days he does so with Voicemail from Glenn, which is exactly what the title says, and spoken-word piece A Dishwasher’s Prayer. Whether through a musical lick or a lyric, this one sneaks up on you.