Album review: SUSAN CATTANEO – The Hammer & The Heart

SUSAN CATTANEO - The Hammer & The Heart

Jersey Girl Music [Release date 25.08.17]

Now that’s something you don’t see many of these days – a double album!  Although, in truth The Hammer and The Heart (the two ‘albums’) would have fitted on a single CD!!

Cattaneo’s fifth album, The Hammer & The Heart covers a number of bases – self writes, co-writes, and covers – intriguingly, for an Americana / Country release, including David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’.

According to Cattaneo, the album is the story of she went ‘from almost giving up, to rediscovering the joy of making music’.  It’s a journey that sees her accompanied by 40 stalwarts from the Americana/Roots rock scene and covering everything from rock, to ballads, to rockabilly, with The Hammer being an ‘electric’ record and The Heart acoustic based.  Different versions of ‘Work Harder Love Harder’ open each set and most tracks ‘feature’ a different artist.

The Hammer opens with two contemporary radio friendly ‘country’ rockers – ‘Work Harder Love Harder’ and ‘The River Always Wins’, although the rockabilly ‘In The Grooves’ and the country ‘crooner’ duet ‘When Love Goes Right’ with Bill Kirchen may not appeal to broader churches.   ‘Dry’ – a shimmering broody duet with Dennis Brennan transcends genres and is a highlight.  ‘Does My Ring Burn Your Finger’ is another moody, slow burning ‘stomp’ and ‘Back Door Slam’ has an enticing blues, rock groove.

The Heart gives ‘Work Harder Love Harder’ an almost unrecognisable, and to my ears more accessible, acoustic based country work out.  But the record is by no means purely acoustic and ‘Ordinary Magic’ and ‘Carried And Smoke’ (the latter featuring Jennifer Kimball) would not be out of place in a Karen Carpenter set.

‘Field Of Stone’ is a classic Americana ‘black top’ tale, and ‘Everybody Cryin’ Mercy’ a laid back blues piece.  But while ‘Space Oddit’y featuring Amy Fairchild and Todd Thibaud is sympathetic to the original, it adds nothing of note to it, and you have to ask ‘why?’

Beautifully produced by Cattaneo, there’s something for everyone here.  But like most double albums, it would probably distil down to a cracking single disc.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

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