Long Mama’s debut album is all about honesty

“Poor Pretender” grapples with disappointment but reclaims ownership of the past.
Arts & Culture

Poor Pretender

Long Mama (Self-released, 2022)

Though delayed by the pandemic, Long Mama’s debut album, Poor Pretender, feels right on time. Its homespun blend of classic country, indie rock, and folk embraces all the variety and contradiction that Americana has to offer. It’s a thoroughly Midwestern meditation on exile and distance, limitations and boundaries, self-knowledge and legacy, and it gently encourages us to wish better for ourselves in the face of heartache.

Named for a prickly cactus native to the southwest, Long Mama is helmed by Kat Wodtke, a Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter who recorded Poor Pretender in January 2020, before coronavirus had slid into everyone’s vernacular. It was finally released in October 2022 and feels almost prescient in how perfectly it fits into a world forever changed by COVID-19. Grappling with disappointment, shattered myths, and haunted wanderings, the album revolves around a reclamation of the self and ownership of the past.

Wodtke’s unpretentious vocals coupled with rich supporting instrumentals make the album a cozy listen, but the lyrics are sharp and poised for reflection. The title track mourns the singer’s inability to live up to her own promises (“Made a deal with myself I’d keep it together after our story ended, but this phoenix is drinking fire, holding court in the ashes”). “Kite Flyer” chastises those of us—and those parts of us—that keep others down so we can feel safe (“You let her fly high, dip low, dance with the wind for a spell, but you ain’t letting go”). And the chilling thrums of “Quiet” evoke a dark night of the soul, begging for something to cut through the silence.

Catholics and other seekers may find a kindred spirit in this album, doing the difficult, Christlike work of holding pain without judgment and finding wisdom in the wilderness within. Best paired with a warm beverage on a rainy night, Poor Pretender urges us toward honesty in a world of pretending.


This article also appears in the April 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 4, page 38). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Long Mama