George Hunter moved to “Catfish Haven” when he was four years old. He only lived in the rural trailer park for three or so years, but that was enough time for the place to leave an indelible impression on him. To hear him talk about Catfish Haven, the place, is to begin to understand Catfish Haven, the band.
“Catfish Haven was a really small stretch of land in southern Missouri . . . probably seven or eight trailers connected by a gravel road out in the middle of nowhere,” Hunter told me in a 2006 interview. “For a kid it was a magical place. I could explore everything. . . . Our neighbor had a pig pen and I would ride these pigs with my six year-old friend.”
Asked to sum up the place in a nutshell, Hunter said: “I had a kitten that got eaten by a possum that lived under our trailer. It sucked. That was Catfish Haven.”
On record and especially on stage, Catfish Haven — the band — hardly sucks. The group’s blue-collar love songs and up-tempo, bare-bones rock would likely appeal to natives of the Haven. The trio features Hunter’s acoustic strumming and soulful, raspy vocals backed by a tight R&B-inspired rhythm section. Musically, the Windy City band mixes equal parts Sam Cooke and Joe Cocker, making them about as unique as it gets for three white dudes in their twenties circa 2008. Fans of local faves The Beauty Shop should take note, as the two bands share more than a little common ground.