REVIEW: Susan Gibson’s “The Hard Stuff” Has An Abundance of Style


While award-winning singer-songwriter Susan Gibson has moments where her songs could remind you of other veteran singer-songwriters, Susan does has an abundance of style – all her own. It sets her apart from most & that’s where she exhibits her rootsy attraction.

Susan’s arrangements, performance & riveting voice are all on target on this — her 7th release as a solo artist. The Hard Stuff (drops Oct 4 – ForTheRecords Release) Susan sets aside innocent, frivolous, & dramatic turns of youth. Instead, she weaves a strong, diversified collection of mature, achingly honest tales of life’s experience & the benefits of wisdom.

This is not your mama’s sugar-free alt-country roots music. This is high octane stuff.

While not every track may drift through ears without suggesting “I’ve heard that melody before,” most songs are instantly likable melodies, with glimmering arrangements, & Susan’s rich, effecting & attractive voice. What more can you ask for? To hell with the critics.

But while some will sound familiar my suggestion – ignore it.

Enjoy the fluency, & remarkable stories Susan tells. Think about it like this: while Susan uses the same ingredients as other cooks – her souffle of songs comes out tasty, flavorful & appetizing anyway. And there’s lots of love that went into every plate.

Right off, her bouncy “Antiques,” possesses familiar attributes but, ah — the clever lyrics. She sings in the same genre with confidence as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Moorer & Maria McKee. That couldn’t possibly be a bad thing.

Susan plays acoustic guitar, banjo. Fred Mandujano (drums), Z Lynch (bass), Andre Moran (guitars, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, keyboards, synths, & vibes), Marian Brackney (fiddle on “8 x 10”).

“The Hard Stuff,” — Susan unloads many clever lyrics over a tight brass section that accentuates throughout. Mark Hallman adds Hammond B3, Kevin Flatt (trumpet), & Tony Bray (sax). “Lookin’ for a Fight,” is tough & absorbing — this is a great melody that will shake heads.

Susan takes a turn on electric guitar on “The Big Game,” & continues her clever wordplay. A more streetwise Lucinda Williams approach with Andre’s clarinet — a nice touch.

“Diagnostic Heart,” is not your average song lyric – a bit on the Cindy Bullens’ side of songwriting (Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth LP & “The Right Kind of Goodbye”). Susan’s in good company because Bullens writes heart-wrenching songs with impeccable melodies. This is a well-written exceptionally strong track.

While “Two Fake IDs” teeters near novelty, it isn’t. It’s poignant with a low glamor quotient. Brian Douglas Phillips’ pedal steel adds high resolution. Susan often writes about subjects not often done by others. This is an infectious tune.

All 10-tracks — expertly played by a fine band & back-up voices – no wails, upstages or showboats – all well-suited to Ms. Gibson’s imaginative & expressive songs.

Produced: Andre Moran & recorded in Austin, TX.!tour/cg5v


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