Susanna RoseSusanna Rose
Album: Snowbound
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 8

Winters in Rochester, N.Y., tend to be long and cold, prompting folks to spend a great deal of times indoors. If you're a singer-songwriter, that's likely to turn your thoughts contemplative, as is the case with Rose (whose also has a Masters in Mental Health Counselling) whose new album was written last year during the coldest winter on record. As such, you can feel both the chill in the air in the melancholic melodies, but also the comforting warmth of the home in her softly brushed, breathy voice.

The turning of the year's often a time for reflection, as with 'Ancient History', a memory of childhood, driving down south, John Denver on the car radio, to the old farmhouse and her great-grandma, juxtaposing recollection of sitting on the porch drinking lemonade with how "After that night I never saw her again." Although now having put down roots of her own, the "ghosts from another land" continue to haunt, the song ending with the poignant confession that "sometimes my brothers and I, we reminisce of the family if we had known, maybe we would have missed."

Lyrically, it elsewhere offers intimate observations on loneliness, the end of relationships and, themes of self-realisation and the struggle for self-assurance, as with the five minute fingerpicked 'Song To Myself' where she asks both herself and, by extension, her friend, "Girl, what are you so afraid of? Why do you keep running away from wherever you are?"

The album opens to the thrumming guitar accompaniment of 'Working Girl' which addresses how the weariness of the nine to five office drudge makes it hard to "hang onto what you truly care about". That dichotomy between what is and what could be and the seeming inevitability of disappointment inform several numbers. On 'Separate Ways', another song built around melting icicle guitar lines, she sings how parting is an unavoidable part of love and life, while, on the jangling title track, spending the night away from the cold with a traveling music man, her voice soaring up the scale, she sings "come on in and let's pretend we don't know how this ends, we don't know how this ends."

And yet, although the strummed 'Old Broken Man' deals with how the singer will feel at the wedding of the man she loved, acceptance rather than sadness is the pervading tone. On the guitar-rippling 'Lullaby' which features Gabe Schliffer on cello, she sings "Let the darkness in. Don't be afraid of it, my dear. And though you're walking slow someday you'll get where you're trying to go", while she's even more positive on the country colours of the fuller arranged 'Benediction' where, though aware that the good times won't last and that you'll sometimes get lost along the road to becoming who you are, she reminds that you still have to keep on living your life because" though you might die before you say everything that you need to say, you've got to start speaking anyway."

Conversational in tone and ultimately life-affirming, there's an almost Emily Dickinson quality to her work, offering thoughtful insights beyond the seemingly casual lines. A very special bloom, Rose needs an appreciative audience beyond her hometown borders, one that will allow her full potential to blossom. It may take time, but, to quote her own lyrics back at her, "don't forget that you are blessed. Whatever happens, keep saying yes."

Mike Davies