Home > Entertainment > Third Cat compilation finds local musicians in a mellow mood

Third Cat compilation finds local musicians in a mellow mood

Hopeful Cat In A Dog’s World raises awareness of autism

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader

2005-02-07


When Dave Nelson and his wife Lynda learned their son Julian had autism, they were told an aggressive approach was the best means of helping Julian reach his potential. “Early intervention is the key to reaching expectations,” says Nelson, a Fort Wayne musician and business owner. “Start early, and just pour it on.”

Though it was quickly apparent the amount of money they would need for Julian’s treatment was beyond their means, dropping the aggressive course of action was not an option. “It’s like having your kid held hostage,” Nelson says. “You don’t worry about how you can afford it, you just do it.”

Nelson had played with a lot of local musicians in the area, and turned to them for help to raise money for treatment for his son Julian and other kids with autism. With the help of associate producer Dan Scheeringa (whose son David has Asperger’s Syndrome), Nelson solicited songs from area musicians to include on a compilation CD. The CD became Cool Cat In A Dog’s World and was released in 2003. It was followed in 2004 with Hot Cat In A Dog’s World. On this one, Nelson and Scheeringa had help from Jon Gillespie of Monastic Chambers studios.

Available in coffee shops, museum gift shops, art galleries, book stores and other venues around town, the “Cat” compilations have proven to be very popular, and not just because they’re for a good cause. Compilation CDs are always a risky proposition for the listener, but the overall quality of both “Cat” CDs is excellent. The third compilation, Hopeful Cat In A Dog’s World, is now out, and once more features an impressive line-up of mostly local acts lending their talents and tunes.

Nelson, Scheeringa and Gillespie took a different approach with this “Cat” CD. Cool Cat In A Dog’s World got a little dark at times, Nelson says. In response, 2004’s
upbeat Hot Cat In A Dog’s World was all over the musical map, bouncing between jazz, folk, funk, rockabilly, ska, meat-and-potatoes rock and more modern stuff. Nelson says they wanted to make Hopeful Cat a more cohesive record with a more consistent tone. There’s a little variety in terms of style — it’s got some jazz, some folk, some ‘mood music’ — but the overall feel is, as Nelson says, “sort of like what you’d listen to on an overcast day with a cup of coffee and a book.”

In addition to local help from his friends (the CD features Todd Harrold, Cathy Serrano, Thylacine, Dave Todoran and Einstein Savage, among others), Nelson was able to snag some national acts. He went to see Devon Sproule play with Jeff Foucault at the Toast & Jam last fall, and approached the two. “I guess I don’t know enough not to go up to national artists and say, ‘do you want to give me a track off your record for free?’” Nelson says. But it worked. Touring commitments kept Foucault off the record, but Sproule was available. Her song “Plea For A Good Night’s Rest” (from her Upstate Songs album) appears on Hopeful Cat.

Nelson also tracked down Bill Moring, an old Elmhurst acquaintance, to contribute to the album. Jack Patton, a former Fort Wayne resident now living in Chicago, got Nelson permission to use music from a film soundtrack he had composed.

Hopeful Cat differs from its predecessors in another significant way — it’s free. Nelson was working with Helping Hands Ministries, an organization that provides a tax-deductible place to put donations, and facilitates payment of services, caretakers, etc. Rather than have to deal with inventory and sales tax and co-mingling of funds, Helping Hands suggested Nelson just give the CD away, with contact information on the record on how people could make a tax-deductible contribution. “The point is to be really open-handed with the material, and hopefully get it in as many hands as we can,” Nelson says. “It might find its way to people who are really touched by the record and want to do something to help. Instead of sitting on someone’s shelf, it kind of gives the CD a life. We might have residuals for a few years as the record makes it way to different people.” People can download the liner notes and graphics www.pchelpservice.com.

Despite the CD’s melancholy tone, the overall message is a hopeful one. As Nelson writes in the liner notes, autism can be difficult and weird sometimes, but it’s never ugly or tragic. “Autism is sort of like being dropped in the middle of a foreign country with no idea of what the custom, the language, and the history of the place is, no idea of how to get along, and saying ‘see you later. You’re on your own,’” he explains. He says a recent study he saw claimed that autism impacts about 1 out of every 150 children. “I hope the record will raise some awareness so that Julian and other kids with autism can benefit. If nothing else, just having more people be sensitive to the situation they’re in would be worth it.”

CD release party for Hopeful Cat will be at Mad Anthony Brewing Company at Taylor & Broadway, Thursday, Feb 17 from 6 to 11pm.

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