A native New Yorker and former corporate bankler who grew up on Dylan and the Dead, Susan Kane say she came to songwriting late in life, making her album debut in 2004. However, this, her fourth CD, she's made up for lost time in reaping an impressive sheaf of glowing reviews and awards.
I've not heard the other, apparently more electric albums, but this serves as an inviting introduction with its acoustic folksy sound built around dobro, fiddle, mandolin, accordion and lap steel alongside acoustuic guitars and banjo, as well as appealingly melodic songs.
The opening track, 'Jacksonville', one of several to feature Abbie Gardner on dobro, is a reflective slow swayer that shows her assured, soaring voice in fine style on a song about unrequited love and a woman willing to wait because "in the fullness of time even rock will wear."
The tempo picks up with 'Love Can Die', which, with Dan Bonis on mandolin, has a sprightly, almost children's song feel to its melody, even if the lyrics ("Daddy bought a ticket, no tears in daddy's eyes, he is leaving, mama said, cause love can die") about an abandoned mother resenting her daughter who has her father's eyes, aren't exactly playground innocence.
These two numbers pretty much set the musical template for the most of the album, one rooted firmly in the folk sound of the late 60s although, that said, 'Worn Out Lines', a duet with co-writer Fred Gillen Jr. and Bonis on pedal steel, is far more familiar honky tonk while 'Slip On Shoes' has a bluesy groove.
There's three covers. The name Robert Morsberger won't mean much to many, but, a classically trained composer as well as songwriter, as a sideman/arranger he worked on albums by Patti Smith, Loudon Wainwright III and My Morning Jacket as well as the Grammy-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack as well as releasing seven albums between 2006 and his death from cancer in 2013. His terminal diagnosis informs 'A Man Of Much Merit', a soaring, moving ballad about the beauty of the wordl he was leaving behind. The other two non-originals both come from one of her favourite acts, The Grateful Dead, with solid versions of 'Brown Eyed Women' and album closer 'Comes A Time', both featuring Lisa Gutkin on violin.
The three remaining numbers are all by Kane, sounding not unlike Baez on the mandolin-strummed 'Crying Babies', Away' a dobro, violin and mandolin-backed waltzer about going on with your life but not letting those that have passed fade from mind, and 'The Veery', a haunting, cello-backed song of rebirth that draws on images of winter, spring and the titular North American thrush.
With a limited profile beyond her NY stomping grounds, it would be very easy for this to slip under the radar. But, if you want to hear one of the better American folk albums released in recent months, you'll make an effort to seek it out.
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