The Hammer And The Heart

Susan Cattaneo

Independent release, 2017

http://susancattaneo.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/12/2021

Full disclosure department: since my first review of Susan’s work, we have become friends. I don’t think this influenced my opinion in the least.

Because this album freaking ROCKS.

Susan has thrown open the proverbial doors to guest stars on this one. Appearances include Americana artist The Bottle Rockets (who I’m going to write a feature article about here very quickly; I have a few interesting things to say about their classic “Indianapolis”); singer/songwriter/producer Mark Erelli, whose credits include working with Paula Cole, Mark Cohn, Rosanne Cash, and Sheryl Crow; Bill Kirchen of Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (“Hot Rod Lincoln”); Boston musical legend Dennis Brennan; and singer/songwriter Todd Thibaud (the former front man for the Courage Brothers).

I find that many times this many cooks can make the pot a little muddled. Not so here; I could tell what Cattaneo was doing on this one right away. A double CD, disc one is more upbeat and dynamic (I assume “The Hammer”) and disc two showcases more of her country roots (“The Heart”). Imposing some sort of organization really makes this flow seamlessly and yet still allows individual tracks to stand out.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first track on the CD blows the doors off. “Work Hard, Love Harder” with the Bottle Rockets is a driving, rocking, Tom-Pettyesque reflection on time passing and living your life to the fullest:

               “Father Time has got a job to do
               Punches in his timeclock, then he’s coming for you
               You pray to St Joe for that nine-to-five
               You should be praying to St Valentine…”

Cattaneo’s voice is amazing. A smooth and clear alto, she puts me in mind of Mary Chapin Carpenter or Carrie Newcomer, but her roots are all Elvis Presley.

Other highlights are the dark “The River Always Wins” (the best flood song since The Rainmakers’ “We Walk The Levee”); the sweet “When Love Goes Right”; the torchy “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?”; the wistful and sad “Smoke” (“Lovin’ you is like catchin’ smoke…); and a killer cover of, of all things, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. There isn’t a weak track on “The Hammer And The Heart”; it’s solid work all the way through.

More impressive to me – it’s a double album. I always feel like double albums ramp up the difficulty exponentially; I can think of a handful of double albums (Dan Fogelberg’s The Innocent Age, Steve Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, The Who’s Quadrophenia) that manage this. It’s a rarity, the musical equivalent of a baseball perfect game, and Cattaneo pulls it off flawlessly.

If you like Americana, country, rock, honky-tonk, or anything in that vein, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Hammer And The Heart.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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