Susan Cattaneo is not afraid of the dark. A powerful singer and sophisticated songwriter, Susan has seen the darkness in the corners and sings about it fearlessly. Following in the footsteps of Matraca Berg, Kim Richey, Lucinda Williams and Gretchen Peters, the well-respected Boston artist combines vivid storytelling with a modern songwriter’s spin. Call it New England Americana with a twang. Respectful of tradition, but not bound by it, Susan’s rootsy vibe blends rock, folk, soul and blues with a healthy dose of country.
“I’m a songwriting geek, I appreciate the work that goes into creating a song. Great songwriters have an authentic point of view, but they are also artisans, masters of the craft. I’m proud that my songs have something to say, and that they are carefully crafted.” Not a surprising statement from an artist who is also a Songwriting Professor at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music.
A Jersey girl with a Southwest heart, Susan grew up on a farm in the Garden State but spent her summers on a ranch in Arizona. She began her music career early, singing six-part harmony with her family and performing country songs by the campfire. She played in bands during her college years and performed in many clubs in New York City while pursuing a career in television (she is an Emmy-nominated writer/producer and NY State Broadcasters Award winner) before turning to music full time.
For a number of years, Susan wrote in Nashville and raised two children. In 2009, she returned to performing. Since then, she has released three records and toured nationally and in Italy. Her songs have been played on country stations all over the world, charting on the Americana Chart, the Music Row Chart and the European Country Chart. She has opened for or shared the stage with artists such as Amy Grant, Rose Cousins, David Wilcox, Dave Alvin and The Guilty Women, Son Volt, Melissa Ferrick, Paula Cole, Travis Tritt, Bonnie Bishop, Ellis Paul and Huey Lewis and The News.
Susan’s fourth album “Haunted Heart” is the culmination of a journey of self-discovery and a creative left turn. Leaving behind the modern country of her previous albums, “Haunted Heart” marks a return to a more organic sound.
Produced by Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli, Ronnie Earl), the album features a stellar cast of musicians from the national Americana scene (including some of New England’s best). Acoustic, electric and all sort of steel guitars are provided by Duke Levine (Peter Wolf, J. Geils, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Garland Jeffreys), Kevin Barry (Peter Wolf, Ray LaMontaigne, Mark Cohn) Lyle Brewer (Ryan Montbleau) and Stu Kimball (Bob Dylan). The rhythm section includes Richard Gates (Susanne Vega, Melissa Ferrick) on bass and Marco Giovino (Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Band of Joy) on drums. Kenny White (Peter Wolf) is on keyboard and special guests include Jimmy Ryan on mandolin and Kristin Cifelli and Scarlet Keys on vocals.
“Haunted Heart” is really personal for me. I’ve spent time in Nashville, writing for others. I enjoyed that, and a lot of those songs found their way onto my previous records. This is the first album where I wrote every song for myself. And it was amazingly liberating.”
The catalyst for this transition was an incident that happened two and a half years ago. A woman was critically injured in her kitchen, and Susan had to save her life. The experience had a happy ending but left Susan significantly shaken.I felt like I’d been marked by this event, and for six months following the accident, Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) became a part of my life,” says Susan.
For all photos, please credit:
Credit: Sarah Gensert
Like every great writer, Susan writes from many perspectives. Some songs unfold in first person and others take a personal experience and disguise it in metaphor and allegory.
The final result is “Haunted Heart” a collection of songs deeply connected to Susan’s life and emotions.
“Imagine my closet is open, and all of my skeletons are wandering around in the daylight. That’s how “Haunted Heart” feels to me.”
Early Praise for Haunted Heart
“There are certain releases that have a wonderful timeless and classic feel, filled with songs that sound like standards from a bygone era despite being newly written and recorded. Susan Cattaneo’s latest fits that category. From the heart-wrenching “Done Better” to the country swagger of “Worth the Whiskey,” it is a collection that is instantly memorable and immensely satisfying.”
Mayer Danzig, Twangville
“Susan Cattaneo’s new album is a revelation for anyone who loves vocal elegance. Her music is intimate and breathtakingly pretty at times, but also girded with powerful arrangements. She straddles the line between country and pop with ease. She dips into a touch of honky-tonk on “Worth the Whiskey,” but also ventures into stately, Shawn Colvin-like terrain in “Lies Between Lovers” and a Carly Simon-style honesty in “Done Better,” a haunting track about the vagaries of love. She has been through a lot and she crystallizes it into music that is meant to last.”
Steve Morse, former Boston Globe Correspondent, Billboard, Rolling Stone
Reviews for Previous Records
Cattaneo has refined her musical talent in Italy, New York City, Nashville and now Boston. With a broadcasting background, she knows how to share her story.
Craig Shelburne, CMT.com
“Really good… excellent lyrics… great atmosphere”
Bob Harris – BBC
“Like Gretchen Peters or Suzy Bogguss, Cattaneo has the talent to create catchy country masterpieces.”
Country Music People UK
Cattaneo’s voice is somewhere between ‘national treasure’ and ‘weapon of mass destruction