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'The Hammer & The Heart'   

-  Label: 'Jersey Girl Music'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country' -  Release Date: '25th August 2017'

Our Rating:
Following on from 2014's Haunted Heart, this is the Boston singer songwriter’s fifth release.

The 18 songs and one hour's worth of music doesn't suggest an artist with a writer's block although the album nevertheless signifies a rebirth of creative energy.

Susan Cattaneo’s first three records saw her mostly working her way efficiently through a catalogue of modern country songs. Despite being well received, she was not entirely satisfied with the results: “I am proud of those three albums but I wrote all those songs with other artists in mind. At some point, the music didn’t really fit or feel like me, and I almost questioned whether I even wanted to keep doing this” she says.

This sense of doubt provided a twin dilemma for her since, as well as being a working musician, she is also a professor of song writing at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.

Fortunately, a supportive community of musicians and friends revived her enthusiasm and helped create and fund this record. These include members of The Bottle Rockets, British guitar virtuoso Davy Knowles, plus some of the best artists from the North East Folk and Americana music scene and Cattaneo’s band mates from the folk trio The Boxcar Lilies.

In The Grooves (featuring Bill Kirchen) is rockabilly ode to vinyl records and Rock'n'Roll heroes from the past. In similarly nostalgic vein this self produced record is conceived like double albums of yore. It is divided between rockers and ballads; The Hammer is electric while The Heart is an acoustic record.

The extended format also allows room for a cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity, even though this doesn't really fit with the themes or style of the rest of the album.

Two versions of Work Hard Love Harder introduce each section and thus serves as the true manifesto of the record. The song is a reminder to take chances and focus on the things like love and kindness rather than being a slave to the man: "The heart beats louder than the dollar, shines light on a world gone darker"

From broody rockers such as ‘Lonely Be My Lover ("I've given up on giving in") or Does My Ring Burn Your Finger? to tender yet unsentimental ballads such as Bitter Moon and Fade To Blue, there's an depth and range to this album that reflects the maturity and resilience of this artist.

Susan Cattaneo website
  author: Martin Raybould

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CATTANEO, SUSAN - The Hammer & The Heart