Every band has its place somewhere, and Catfish Haven are like that local college one that all your friends loved (maybe you all knew the drummer) and you never understood exactly why. But you knew that every time they had a gig in town, you'd probably be there, drinking cheap beer under bad lighting, while the bandmembers did the best they could, eventually getting the whole bar to sing along to "Redemption Song" by the end of the night. To be fair, Catfish Haven do seem like they'd put on a pretty good live show, based on sheer energy if nothing else. There's a sense of sincerity and a lack of pretension to the music, as if they were playing because they really love to play. Singer George Hunter has a plaintive, expressive, and gravelly voice (very similar to Marc Roberge's from O.A.R.) and bangs the hell out of his acoustic guitar (on all six chords he knows), and bassist Miguel Castillo finds good, simple soul-based grooves around which the rest of the songs form. Though their debut full-length, Tell Me, was recorded in the studio, the album almost sounds as if it were just a practice session they were having in their living room, with its dirty brown couch and all. There's a sense of amateurishness in the songs, from the slightly out-of-tune guitar (particularly in "This Time") to the simple and repetitive lyrics that seem like they were made up on the spot, just a couple of guys jamming away. And although the occasional horns and keys and Motown-esque backup singers sound good, they also seem a little out of place, like Catfish Haven are trying too hard to be something they're not -- like they're pretending that they're not actually just three moderately talented musicians getting together to play and to hopefully entertain their friends. Because that's all they really are -- not horrible, but not great either -- a fun bar band perhaps but not much more than that. Likewise, Tell Me isn't bad; it's just nothing special, a lesser version of Dispatch, best consumed at college house parties and then left for other things.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown