A singer-songwriter, and for thirteen years a songwriting professor at Boston’s world-renowned Berklee College of Music, New Jersey girl Susan Cattaneo has paid her dues. For not only has she opened and shared the stage with among others Amy Grant, Rose Cousins, Dave Alvin and The Guilty Women, Son Volt, Travis Tritt, Ellis Paul, Paula Cole and Huey Lewis and The News, but the former Nashville resident has showcased her songs on her three previous albums. Only this is the first record, made up entirely of her own songs written for her. And the articulate, emotion-driven lady has capitalised on the fact in sterling fashion.
Haunted Heart has her cranking it up a notch or two as the Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli, Ronnie Earl) produced record catapults a Kevin Barry, Lyle Brewer, Richard Gates, Marco Giovino and Kenny White backed Cattaneo (with additional support from Entress, Stu Kimball, Duke Levine and others) to pole position.
It is like Cattaneo’s lyrics have been given wings as she scrapes back the veneer, to expose emotions of the deepest kind, pure, heartfelt and on occasions a little raw even. Not content with only singing them she puts on a performance on the likes of ”Worth the Whiskey“, as a darker approach eases from piece Cattaneo is in sparkling form. While she breezes merrily along on ”Lorelei“, and though it would be nice to see others pick up on her work it would be difficult for someone to better her versions. Even if the former that reminds me of Wynonna (Judd) had her cover it at her best. Awash in choppy blues guitar, and a feel of the South it has a bruising feel which runs deep.
The good stuff isn’t confined to the above and the likes of another excellent cut ”Queen Of The Dancefloor“ (her version of Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger) the rousing, rhythm pounding opened “Barn Burning” and dreamy title-cut ”Haunted Heart“ an the song she closes with ”How A Cowboy Says Goodbye“. Lassos the moon, doused in steel guitar, chugging rhythm and piano, organ it shuffles across the horizon like a cowboy on his horses, chaps et al. Plus, you have arguable the best song on the record, ”Abide“ as she engages her heart wrenching in life in the sweaty south and how in 1935, rain did not come and wheat dried up; her tones and the bluesy tones perfect for lyrics that speak of a land God has forgotten. Could this be the album see Cattaneo emerge from the shadows, if there is any justice left in this (musical) world the deed should be already inked in as you read this