Always challenging, Rumpumpo is peppered with restless moments, from the title track to the mesmerizing “Glorieta to the Holy Place”, a New Mexico-based story of a young girl’s pilgrimage to the town of Chimayo as a test of faith during the pandemic. Vargas escorts us to dark and uncomfortable places, but always with an arm around the shoulder and a reassuring grin. In the swampy “Spit 3 Times”, we are taken on a musical Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, exploring the nooks and crannies of obsession, then thrust into the stripped-down ballad “Someday”, a love song at once morbid, disturbing and yet beautiful that reaches a peak reminiscent of George Martin and The Beatles (circa 1967). Whether drawn from folklore or direct experience, Vargas injects an intimate feel into each song via her poetic lyricism and jagged vocal delivery. At times, Vargas damn near hypnotizes, her compositions seeping to the edge of the subconscious, hardwiring listeners to ponder questions that, in other contexts, might make them squirm.
”Frequently labeled as “junkyard folk,” Vargas’ work is marked with deep intention, frequently emerging as some of the most “honest, authentic” in the Americana scene”
A reformed wild child, in recent years Kate Vargas has traded the party for meditation, yoga, clean eating and a renewed focus on what she values most—her music. The New Mexico-raised, NYC-based artist is building ever more mindfully on her sound, and the music press is taking notice, Vargas receiving praise from a variety of respected outlets including Billboard, NPR, Noisey, and the Huffington Post, the latter assessing, “There is an unlimited amount of potential in this superstar on the rise.”
Vargas has packed houses from Ireland’s Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival to The Troubadour in London, The Mansion on O Street in Washington D.C. to New York’s Bowery Electric. Featuring her singular folk-style storytelling, Vargas’ songs are grounded in a darkly melodic, reverb-washed sonic palette of dreampop, dusty folk and junkyard blues, all carried by rough-hewn vocals and guitar playing. In equal measure, she channels a surprising array of artists, from Tom Waits, Fiona Apple, and 16 Horsepower to Lana Del Rey and K. Flay.
In March of 2020, the pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt just weeks before Vargas was scheduled to record her new album. With plans on indefinite hold, Vargas found herself struggling to find a way forward. Months later, while talking to a friend about her feeling that she had stalled out, he simply stated Newton’s 1st law - an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays at rest, unless acted upon by an external force. She needed an external force.
Thus, Rumpumpo was born.
"Without a doubt this is the most lyrically daring, sonically blazing album of the year. Kate Vargas, and musicians fueled by the audacious Eric McFadden on guitars, does not let up for a second. If you want a collection of songs that stirs the emotional cauldron from start to finish, forget Adele’s 30, get Vargas’ Rumpumpo."
"Hold on there 2021. You almost snuck out the door with this year’s most unconventionally intoxicating and intricate album. This just below the radar LP is Kate Vargas’ ‘Rumpumpo’. A title that’s more of a sound you’d hear from New Orleans second-line procession than a word, but that’s what this album is. It’s an exceptional world of the unexpected. With stops of raspy blues, shadowy and poetic soul-stirring ballads, and full-tilt backroom rock n roll all twisted together into something that’s unlike anything else.
If you’re a fan of a wide swath of vibes from the likes of Dr. John, Joplin, Adam Green, to Of Monsters and Men and Suzanne Santo, that’s awesome…but start anew with a fresh fandom of the eclectic brilliance that is Kate Vargas and her chronic, the hypnotic… ‘Rumpumpo’… it’s a wild ride worth every mystifying second."