July 23, 2009

Susan Cattaneo
Brave and Wild

Medford, MA
Recorded by Chris Rival at Middleville Studio in North Reading, MA, Lorne Entress at Busterland
in Glastonbury, CT, Andy Pinkham at Mortal Music in Charlestown, MA, Tom Eaton at Thomas
Eaton Recording, Newburyport, MA and Matt Jugenheimer at Zippah Recording in Brighton,
MA | Mixed by Huck Bennert in Portland, ME | Mastered by Mark Donahue at Soundmirror in Boston, MA

For all the songs by female vocalists about scorned women (or those just blatantly pissed off, deserved or otherwise) few ever stick like those bittersweet or earnestly tenderhearted. Perhaps it’s that anger subsides over time, leaving heartache that never truly heals. As subject matter for songs, it remains universal. Depending on the artist, it becomes timeless, yet writing and performing said material is the real trick.

Susan Cattaneo does well with it on Brave and Wild, a collection of love songs, serenades and a few rockers (“Wrecking Ball” and “Can’t Chase a Train”) that may be beneath her talents, but sure to please the radio crowd. Cattaneo, a teacher at the Berklee College of Music, shines best when tackling material with earthier, textured delivery. She broaches modern country on “Love Takes What it Takes” and “Red Light Kiss” – a saccharine-injected, perfect pop song that recalls C’mon, C’mon by Sheryl Crow.

The album’s standout track, and most emotionally jarring, is “Took Away My Sky” in which Cattaneo sings, “You gave me wings to fly/Then took away my sky.” It’s the overly sentimental stuff that gets gutted on American Idol, but in the right hands cuts deep. Here, Cattaneo hits a home run. If she doesn’t find grand success with it, some pop star will. There’s a near-whispered vocal on the graceful “Whiskey Into Tears,” and on “Wild Irish Moon” she sounds most at home, finding a stride and melody that lingers, especially with the line, “And I won’t cry/We had our time to shine.”

Cattaneo digs deep into the recesses of soul and spirit here, making note of the wreckage we serve each other and the bandages we apply. It’s thick with familiar tales and earned philosophy. The caveat to Cattaneo’s album is that it sounds real, not a mere interpretation.
-Brian Tucker


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