Susan James – Highways, Ghosts, Hearts & Home

January 01, 1970




The American music scene has rootsy singer/songwriters
coming out of its proverbial ears, and it can be difficult to stand out from
the pack. While the occasional radical rethink is usually admiral and often
wildly successful, the whole Americana
wheel essentially turns on the traditional makeup of the spokes and axis, so a
sudden shift is often inadvisable.


All of which is a roundabout way of saying that a
singer/songwriter can make his or her rep on two things: excellent songwriting
and an eye for small musical details. Fortunately for Susan James her fourth LP
Highways, Ghosts, Hearts & Home has both. The opening track sets the tone – “Airstream Girl” paints its
portrait of an ambiguously free spirit with “a fairly nebulous career” using a
peppy country tune but with a seriously spacey guitar jangle as an intro. The
devotion of “On Your Side” rides an ethereal melody that seems to beam directly
from some romantic netherworld, while the relocation joy of “Out in the Woods”
emanates from an equally atmospheric place.


Even when James isn’t messing with the formula, though,
she’s still a step above her contemporaries. “Falling Waltz 2” pulses with the
bittersweetness of unrequited love, while “Calling Mr. Zimmerman” wrestles with
the frustration of writer’s block. “How To Fix a Broken Girl” drills right to
the core of depression, while the seeming simplicity of “Old Jug Song” teems
with loss. James is no pessimist, but she’s also not afraid to scratch below
the surface and let a little blood hit the air. Her chosen field may be teeming
with like-minded colleagues, but James’ talent serves to bring eyes and ears to
Highways, Ghosts, and Hearts & Home.


DOWNLOAD: “Falling
Waltz 2,” “On Your Side,” “A Weed is Not a Weed (When It Grows Where It Belongs”

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