Susan Cattaneo 'Haunted Heart' - Jersey Girl

This New Jersey Girl has releases several albums before this current collection. Her songs fall into a folk/pop/country genre and are a blend of the upbeat and the more circumspect. Abide speaks of how the “the world’s wicked ways abide”,  an honest truth. The word wicked appears again in Lorelei where “something wicked grows within”. But lest you feel that there is an oppression hanging over the album, Cattaneo feels she is “worth the whiskey” and that “she feels like dancing”. 

Producer Lorne Entress, who has worked previously with Cattaneo,  has assembled a fine studio band to give these songs their verve. Between the participants a lot of instruments are featured to give the songs added textures.

A recent life or death experience had a profound effect on Cattaneo’s writing and she notes this changed the direction of her songwriting from the more country style song she had written for others. A big fan of Wille Nelson, she wanted some of his musical dexterity and indeed wrote Queen of the Dancehall as a female take on Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Writing from a female perspective is an important part of her work and she tries to tell it from a position of strength and understanding. 

The fourteen songs here do just that and veer between a more traditional view like the steel drenched album closer How a Cowboy Says Goodbye through the more contemporary mode of Lies Between Lovers which to these ears has an echo of Because The Night. Between these two songs Cattaneo explores aspects of aspects of Americana in a way that would be familiar to fans of Mary Chapin Carpenter. Similarly,  Cattaneo has her own voice and is a strong writer. There are times when the downbeat lyrical direction is at odds with the musical setting which, on occasion, might be a bit tougher. But overall Haunted Heart works, as it has confidence in and commitment to its largely contemplative songs. That in itself doesn’t always happen, so take it to heart, haunted or otherwise.