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Susan Wylde – In The Light

Sun, Moon And Stars Entertainment 2011

12 tracks; 48.03 minutes

Susan Wylde is a Canadian singer and pianist and this is her first album that is being promoted as blues, the previous one being more pop, with one song selected for a compilation CD entitled “Absolute Voices II”, alongside well known artists such as Sade, Norah Jones and Alison Krauss. This CD includes five songs written by Susan and a selection of covers. Something of the feel of the album can be gleaned from the fact that the covers include Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” and Harry Warren’s “At Last”, both more jazz than blues. On the other hand there are covers of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s “Three Hours Past Midnight” and Jimmie Cox’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”, so there is a blues element here too.

Susan sings in a classically trained alto voice and all lyrics can be made out clearly. The musicians on the CD are all Canadian, with the best known names being Paul Reddick on harp and Jack de Keyser who plays guitar and co-produced the CD with Susan. Particular mention must be made of the horns on the CD which are excellent: saxes, Colleen Allen and Turner King; trumpet and cornet, Dave Dunlop.

Taking the covers first “Three Hours Past Midnight” has a late night, slow blues feel, with some nice piano and sympathetic horns in the background. De Keyser’s guitar solo is also a strong feature, making this one of the most bluesy tracks on the album. I liked this one a lot. “Nobody Knows You” is the next track on the CD, with harp strongly featured over a rolling piano intro. The song is sung in a jazzy manner by Susan. The last four tracks on the CD are all covers and all take a relaxed approach. JD Loudermilk’s “Turn Me On” is played quietly with gentle, jazzy chords on guitar and Susan’s wistful vocal. “Georgia” is played straight, a classic song which we all know very well. The organ backing here gives a feel of the church to this interpretation and the sax is played beautifully. However, does the world need another version of this song? The same can certainly be said of “The Thrill Is Gone” which is attributed to Lew Brown and Ray Henderson here, whereas I have always understood the song to have been written by Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins. The sax is again excellent but I did not feel that the song suited Susan’s voice as well as some of the material on the CD. “At Last” closes the CD, a song inevitably associated with early period Etta James. Susan’s classically trained voice is far more precise than Etta’s and, for me, does not convey as much of the passion we remember from Etta.

The originals are an interesting set that demonstrate a literate writer at work. “Lovely Push-Up Bra” is a comic tale of a girl working in a seedy bar. “Some lace and some wire strategically placed, it feels good if you like that look on his face” is the opening line of the song. The track is dedicated to the late Jeff Healey who was not only a fine blues guitarist but also a trumpet player, so it is appropriate that cornet and piano provide a 20s feel to the music so you might well feel like you are in that bar yourself! In contrast “I Can’t Tell New Orleans Goodbye” is dedicated to the people of NO, a ballad that recounts the tragedy of Katrina and the unbroken spirit of the city in the face of adversity. This is another highlight of the album.

Album opener “One Real Man” opens with some strong harp and guitar work in a rocker that extols the virtues of a good man - “one real man to keep me warm”. It’s a strong opener to the album and lyrically makes a good pair with “Love Me All Night Long”, a song with an attractive stop-start Latin rhythm and fine horn backing. The middle eight is graced with fine piano and guitar solos. Title track “In The Light” is an oddity in that the tune bears a striking resemblance to Springsteen’s “Spirits In The Night”, the horns sounding as if they had borrowed the charts for the latter song. Lyrically we are in very different territory – no stoned trips to the lake here! This is a song about achieving peace after difficult times, love having conquered fear. A pleasing plucked guitar and an ecstatic sax provide the solo features.

The numerate readers will have spotted that we have one more track to discuss! That track is “That’s What You Do To Me” which is credited as ‘Unknown’. This is a song which appeared on Colin James’ “Little Big Band” CD, the version here is up-tempo with well-crafted guitar and organ solos.

Overall this is a varied CD with a mix of blues and other styles of music. I found quite a lot to enjoy here.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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