One of the most fascinating aspects of traditional folk music is the way that songs endure for generations, with multiple artists putting their own stamp on classic songs, reinterpreting their themes and reconceptualising the sound and feel of a track. ‘Katie Cruel’ is one such track, with a history that stretches back centuries, the American version likely originating from the time of the Revolutionary War, though the track is believed so be derived from an even older Scottish song.
If you’ve heard any rendition it is likely Karen Dalton‘s, but in recent years Irish folk ensemble Lankum recorded a particularly evocative rendition in their signature drone-influenced style with seeping strings and desperate vocals. The latest rendition comes from Russian-born, Italy-based artist kariti, whose alluring strain of dark folk manages to blend the ethereal with the real.
2020’s Covered Mirrors saw kariti pair folk instrumentation with celestial croons that radiate over the stripped-back guitar, but for ‘Katie Cruel’ the musician has turned to a Rhodes piano, lending the track a less ominous but no less mournful tone. Her version is one that’s soft and serene, soothing like a cool breeze in a heatwave, but also lonely and poignant, sung with such intimacy that it’s hard to believe the words are not her own.
Check it out below, and see more from the artist here.
Covered Mirrors is out now. Order here.
Words: George Parr