Iain Anderson Show BBC Scotland Dec 10 2012
Our Album of the Week... Susan Kane's "A Word Child"
Susan Kane hails from the city of New York and has been gathering plaudits and five star reviews for her perceptive and soulful songs. Not for nothing is A Word Child one of the early contenders for one of the best albums of 2013.
Susan Kane: Press
Press/Reviews for A Word Child
“Susan Kane may sound like the Hudson Valley’s very own Linda Ronstadt, but there’s a difference. Susan’s not only a terrific singer, but also one of the most naturally gifted songwriters that I’ve had the pleasure of working with in a decade of presenting shows.
-- Carter Smith, Common Ground Community Concerts
It's not the stellar production, or the 'A' list players on this album that matter; it's the songwriting, and the self-assurednarrative voice, and the clear bellwether tones of Susan Kane...never overwrought, nor seeking attention. Drawing from the well, and finding beauty.
--Rob Morsberger, Singer Songwriter, Producer, Composer
When you hit the play button on A Word Child by Susan Kane there is a bit of a snaky guitar lead into her warm, enveloping voice for the song, Around The Bend, one of the seven songs she wrote for this disc. There are two songs written by the Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia; and one each by Stephen Ray Kirkman and Rich Deans, and then B. Gregory Palitz composed the music for Donal Og which is a poem written by Lady Gregory. The songs have a cohesive feel to them and range from warm folk, to bluesy in feel to twangy, to haunting, all within that mode that is called Americana. Ms Kane is a skilled songwriter and her songs remind the listener that there are writers who present their thoughts in a cohesive linear manner, so that the listener doesn't have to search for hidden meanings, a pleasant reprieve from some of the writers who use seven veils for their words and then there are all these subtexts.
This disc was recorded mostly in Austin, Texas, and a few cuts at Woody's House in Croton, NY, and here and there. As with many albums that are recorded in multiple locations there are a plethora of musicians playing on here. The main constant is Billy Masters who handles the guitars and also produced the disc. The musicians are all top notch and there is no drop off no matter who was playing on a particular song with Ms Kane. It is a disc that lives up to its name and I venture to guess that she is a woman that appreciates the correct word at the right time by the craftsmanship of the songs.
From a No Depression Blog
Had I'd known of this artist and the album titled A Word Child that was released last November, it likely would have made my annual list of favorites. It's not only that good, but far better than that. When something new comes my way, sometimes I'm taken by the songs, sometimes it's the instrumentation, sometimes the vocals and always the vibe. Susan Kane has delivered on all fronts, far exceeding the expectations I had when she chose to reach out to me last week. We're sort of neighbors in this Lower Hudson Valley I've recently moved to, a land rich in musical tradition and especially fertile for folksingers and acoustic players.
Susan is a member and past president of the Tribes Hill music collective, a group that includes several artists I had already heard of (Anthony da Costa, Abbie Gardner and Red Molly) and many, many more I'm now discovering. There's a compilation called We're All Here on CD Baby that showcases some of the members. This non-profit organization is "uniting musician(s) of the Lower Hudson Valley region and their patrons, in support of a music community that aspires to common goals and beliefs. It is a conceptual gathering place for people of all races, politics, and faiths coming together to explore and celebrate the human experience through song." Some of the groups goals include creating public showcases, bringing music to schools, encouraging regional radio programs and "promoting the music of our independent artists through the support of patrons and the many resources of Lower Hudson Valley, as well as beyond."
The first thing that caught my attention when Susan sent me the files for her latest album (she has also released two others: Highway Bouquet and So Long ), was that she covered two songs I knew well..."Loser" from the first Jerry Garcia solo album, and "Row, Jimmy" off The Dead's Wake Of The Flood. "Jerry and Robert[Hunter] are deep in my DNA" she wrote, and as I've curled up with the rest of the album over these past few days, I've found myself feeling the spirit of the Dead surface and intertwine with her own songs. But the music goes far, far beyond just that touchpoint.
Susan's voice is a beautiful instrument; both solid and soaring. When she lets the high notes fly, it feels like frost being thrown through the fresh night air. Her lyrics are sophisticated and intelligent, which I would imagine they must be with the album's title being what it is. The songs are layered with seasoned and tasteful instrumentation and production values. Recorded primarily in Austin, Texas, the musicians include bass player Zev Katz, pedal steel artist Bob Hoffnar, percussionist Ben Wittman, vocals from Jess Klein, bass player Glenn Fukunaga, drummer Marco Giovino from the Robert Plant Band, and others. It was produced by Billy Masters who she has worked with before.
Those of you who have been reading my posts these past four years, have heard time and again how much I dislike doing reviews, yet here I am once more. I tried to engage Susan to share some things, but she replied that "focusing on the music is fine with me...my personal story is very boring, I am happy to say." Well...Susan, I believe that your story is pretty interesting. It took me a little while to find it on her website, but I'll share with you what I found:
-She grew up in Waldwick, N.J., near the Paramus Mall. Her mother taught piano and her father was an aspiring actor who finally packed it in to sell insurance. When the Beatles hit America Kane asked for a guitar, and by the time she was in 7th grade she was leading her own folk music trio.
-Studied economics at Bryn Mawr College and kept up her songwriting on the side, graduating in 1975. After a stint at the European American Bank in Manhattan she moved over to the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, teaching brokers and bankers in the Credit Training Program for several years before marrying and staying at home to raise three children. Not that she transformed herself into a soccer mom...she kept doing the corporate stuff on a project basis, and has been a "hands on" finance person in a bunch of nonprofits for years, including deep involvement in prison education programs.
-As her kids got older Susan started to feel the itch of performing music again. She helped start a Dead cover band, August West in 1998, and then worked in another outfit, Bad Dog, that featured some of her original songs. Coaxed into the singer-songwriter genre by her friend Sloan Wainwright, she has been a regular at Tribes Hill and the open mic scene.
Susan found me by reading a recent post I wrote about seeing Mary Gauthier, a show she attended as well. Mary is an artist who began her career at age fifty, and she's someone that has inspired Susan's latest journey. ”You do what you do," she said, "and don't look back if you can help it. I don't view my corporate life as a sidetrack I shouldn't have been on. For now, it's great to be doing something new and challenging. I have a lifetime to draw on for my songwriting, and I'm making the kind of music where you don't need a stylist to find an audience."
I've sprinkled her songs throughout this piece, and I hope you take the time to explore more of her work. Her ReverbNation site offers quite a bit to stream. You can buy her albums on CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes and through her own site.
What you don't want to do? You don't want to miss the music of Susan Kane....she's a very gifted artist.
A Glasgow view of Americana and related music and writings.
Wanting some sultry southern slide driven gumbo to start your weekend with? Look no further as the opening song, Around The Bend on Susan Kane’s excellent album A Word Child should satisfy anyone reared on Little Feat and early Bonnie Raitt. Sliding into view with Billy Masters’ superb guitar slink buttressed by Mark Addison’s soulful organ Around The Bend grabs the attention even before Kane starts singing. And when she does the contract is signed, sealed and delivered with her voice strong, and effortless, an equal to Raitt back in the seventies. Add some fine harmonies from the ever excellent Jess Klein and you have the best opening song of the year so far.
Kane is a NY based singer who’s recorded this, her third album, in Austin, Texas and it’s certainly far removed from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle. Instead we have the aforementioned southern blues style along with some sweet country best exemplified by the fiddle laced Buffalo Jump. Aside from her voice Kane is a fine writer with Buffalo Jump‘s jauntiness for example offset by the lyrics which appear to be a valedictory from an elderly woman preparing for her end. Elsewhere she uses a classic country sound to bemoan the life of a woman who considers herself invisible in the shadow of her partner on the heart tugging I Know About Your Broken Heart while Paulita’s Lament is a great narrative on the life, crimes and death of Billy The Kid as seen by his lover. Kane sounds great on all of these however she turns in her best performance on Aquamarine , a homage to a friend which flows as sweetly as a mountain stream. Here as elsewhere the playing is excellent with Masters (who also produced the album) dripping some magical notes from his guitar.
There are four cover versions. A fine twangy rendition of Stephen Ray Kirkman’s Black Roses which is energetic and engaging while an adaptation of Irish poet, Lady Augusta Persse, Lady Gregory, founder of the Abbey Theatre’s Donal Og takes Kane into Richard Thompson territory temporarily. Again Masters’ guitar is, well, masterful. Intriguingly the other two covers are both penned by the late Jerry Garcia in partnership with Robert hunter. The classic gambler’s tale Loser is given a fine reading while the more obscure Row Jimmy (from the Dead’s Wake of the Flood album) returns to the opening song’s organ and slide guitar groove and slides down as easily as honey.
This lady’s background (a career in banking while raising several children) might never lead you to believe that she was destined to record albums. Nothing you could foresee except a wonderful desire to compose and to sing. In fact, she was always in the midst of music practicing piano and playing in different groups in her youth. And then in the late nineties, as a member of a rock group playing original material, she tells herself that perhaps she too can write songs. Then, on the advice of Sloan Wainwright she directs herself toward folk. Good choice, as proven by her first two albums and confirmed by A Word Child. Because the talent was there, and with her varied musical experience, she has a palette that enables her not to be confined to a single genre. From the bluesy Around the Bend (with backup vocals by Jess Klein) to New York Winter, a mid tempo homage to her city, Susan paints some pictures with nuance and finesse. A song like (Rich Deans’) Paulita's Lament, the story of Billy the Kid as seen by the woman he left behind, is particularly remarkable; its rhythm of a slow waltz complemented by the accordion played by Daniel A. Weiss quickly haunts the listener. Billy Masters’ production is, as usual, impeccable and the guest musicians know how to bring the right note where it is necessary. Warren Hood on mandolin (New York Winter) or on fiddle (Buffalo Jump) or Bob Hoffnar on pedal steel (I know About Your Broken Heart, Aquamarine) bring a country sound to some of the titles. Susan Kane is also a dedicated "Deadhead" and covers two tunes by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter (Loser and Row, Jimmy). New York Americana fans have good days ahead with artists of this caliber.
This is a quite wonderful album from Susan Kane, a folk singer from the New York area with a beautifully rich voice and a superbly understated technique. Her previous album (her second) was picked up by the excellent Iain Anderson on Radio Scotland as an album of the week – easy to see why if it was anything like as good as this.
Word Child takes its title from an Iris Murdoch novel and features half a dozen Susan Kane original songs. The rest of the album is an eclectic range of covers – two Grateful Dead songs and an adaptation of an old Irish poem that, itself, was translated from the Gaelic being the further reaches of Susan Kane’s song searches. Through all these songs runs a deeply romantic thread that takes us into a sensual world where the emotion of the moment is paramount. Much as I appreciate social commentary, protest and all the other staples of folk song, it’s a lush pleasure to be taken into this timeless world of pure feeling.
Musically, this album is nigh on perfect. Recorded in Austin under the guidance of guitarist Billy Masters, there’s quite a list of stellar support from the likes of fiddle maestro Warren Hood and bass player Glenn Fukunaga. Opening with the Susan Kane song Around The Bend, these guys offer an immediate demonstration of controlled power; they sound as tight as a drum skin as they strut their way through an arrangement that borders on a kind of swampy funk. Susan Kane’s voice is imperiously relaxed, like the master midfield player who doesn’t seem to break sweat and always has time in hand to apply the killer touch. That sets the mark, and the quality is maintained from start to finish as quite beautifully sympathetic playing from the band always seems “just right” in support of Susan Kane’s warm, thoughtful singing. If I had to pick one track to highlight, then it would be the Grateful Dead song, Loser. This has such a gorgeous melody – milked for all it’s worth here – that it’s just irresistible; the harmony vocals when the chorus comes round are killer, but then so is the mood conjured by Billy Masters on guitars and J J Johnson on drums – perfectly elegiac in tone.
Susan Kane’s got as beautiful a folk voice as you could hope to hear but, better than that, she sings her songs like she’s living them and thereby gives them huge force and resonance. This feels like a proper collection of songs and an album to be treasured through the years ahead.
John Davy, Flyinshoes Review, February 2013
Euroamericana Chart reporter, recommended pick for February 2013 report
Susan Kane - A Word child
Susan Kane’s first love, musically, would appear to be country/rock and, aided by producer Billy Masters and his guitar prowess, she pays her respects admirably. On “Loser,” Susan shows that she knows how to portray a sultry femme fatale: Don’t you touch hard liquor just a cup of cold coffee / I’m gonna get up in the morning and go... put your gold money where your love is, baby / before you let my deal go down. “Donal Og,” a Celtic ballad adapted from the poem by Lady Gregory, is a departure from the overall country vibe. “I Know About Your Broken Heart,” with its lush pedal steel, is a stunner which reminds me of some of the country/western ballads of the ’50s. Packed with great songs, solid vocals and great guitar, this CD is an attention-getter.
Richard Cuccaro, Acoustic Live in New York City, The Great NERFA 2012 CD Haul
Press/Reviews for Highway Bouquet
First, I have to tell you, as I was listening to your amazing version of Love Has No Pride, I got news that a friend's nephew was killed in Iraq--tragically a Humvee rollover...I thought those vehicles were designed to protect? I really hate this war.
I'm not one to make comparisons, but your artistry definitely side by side with Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell on this album. The Story of Kesey is heartbreaking...I loved hearing the mandolin on Tenderhearted...then realized it's Matt Turk--great musician. I really love the song Nothing at All, especially:
'But you're just a lonely satellite
You get your orders from below
From the ground you seem a star so bright
And the truth they'll never know'
Whew...that wrecks me. Highway Bouquet is an invitation to hit the road with Susan Kane--her voice the fuel, sweet momentum of the strings, the wheels. From the lead track Ring the Bells, this lyrical journey with Susan teaches us that even in the darkness of the past, hope blooms. Hallelujah!
I invite anyone to translate this! My high school German is not up to it, nor are any of the various internet translators of much use (oh, those idioms!)
Der gute alte 'Highway' geht wohl als eine naheliegendsten Assoziationen im Americana-Umfeld durch. Sicherlich gibt's da auch noch die 'Front Porch', die Berge, die Wüste, die Scheune und was weiß ich nicht noch alles... Doch Susan Kane aus New Jersey hat sich für ihr zweites Album für den Highway entschieden und präsentiert auf ihrem "Highway Bouquet" einen - um im Bild zu bleiben - bunten Strauß an Melodien, Stimmungen und Gefühlen, die einen Großteil der Americana bzw. Roots-Music Facetten widerspiegeln. Einmal von Norden nach Süden, von Westen nach Osten. Und dies alles in knapp 40 Minuten.
Natürlich ist es nicht einfach, sich in diesem Genre, wo Country, Folk, Blues-Elemente Hand in Hand gehen, von anderen bereits etablierten Künstlern abzuheben, markante Duftmarken zu setzen, womöglich zu überraschen oder gar zu verstören. Susan Kane agiert entlang ihres "Highway Bouquet" auf recht konventionelle Art und Weise, ist sich der Countrytraditionen durchaus bewusst und versucht erst gar nicht anderweitig aufzufallen als durch gediegene Qualität.
Im Grunde macht Ms. Kane nichts falsch, geizt nicht mit ihren Qualitäten, verfügt über eine warme, ausdrucksstarke Stimme, die für ihre oftmals im akustischen Setting darbebotenen Country-Ausflüge wie geschaffen scheint und selbst im etwas zupackenderen Opener Ring the bells, welches mit lässigem Bonnie Raitt/Jackson Browne-Flair liebäugelt, eine starke Figur abgibt. Stichwort Bonnie Raitt: Neben ihren acht Originalsongs serviert uns Susan Kane ein GRATEFUL DEAD-Cover (To lay me down) und eine zwar abgespeckte, aber deswegen keineswegs ärmliche Coverversion des altehrwürdigen Love has no pride von Bonnie Raitts zweitem Album (anno 1972) "Give It Up". Dieser Song wurde zwar von vielen anderen Künstlern adaptiert, so auch von Linda Ronstadt und Rita Coolidge, doch langweilig wird diese Prachtballade wohl nie werden. Nicht nur hier überzeugt vor allen Dingen auch die feine Dobro-Slide-Arbeit des Albumproduzenten Billy Masters, den einige von seiner Zusammenarbeit mit Suzanne Vega kennen dürften. Masters verschafft diesem bunten Treiben aus akustischen und elektrischen Roots-Momenten einen transparenten und absolut passenden Sound, der den Unterhaltungswert dieses schönen Albums gekonnt abrundet.
I'm pleased to announce that you/your artist has received a spot in the Best of 2009 for Radio Crystal Blue!
The list of the top 100 artists is generated from the combined rank of quarterly airplay charts I create. The rankings were done based on frequency and consistency of airplay over the months, with bonus consideration given to those that I've worked with outside of radio, such as for bookings in NYC or simply seeing artists in person. Pending a press release with the announcement, I am putting the word out here for you to share.
The list of the top 100, plus other lists that include an update to my quarterly airplay charts and all-time ranking (covering 2003-2009) may be found at the chart section of www.radiocrystalblue.com
Dan Herman/Radio Crystal Blue
Highway Bouquet has become a staple on my iPod. I just had to share a track with my listeners tonight. Congratulations on a solid album. (List posted to FOLKDJ)
Acoustic Planet (Thursdays 8 to 10 pm)
Erin Radio -- CHES 101.5 FM
Susan Kane is the real thing. The lower Hudson Valley-based singer-songwriter has just released her second album, Highway Bouquet, and it’s chock-full of great songs and great singing, all set off with a shimmering production job from multi-instrumentalist and Suzanne Vega side man Billy Masters (who called in ringers like Lisa Gutkin, Fred Gillen Jr., and Marc Muller to assist). Kane would have been comfortable in the “Mellow Mafia” of late-’70s Los Angeles, but her music has a stronger country edge and occasionally even leans into the alt.folk territory of her peers. Since Kane covers the Eric Kaz/Libby Titus chestnut “Love Has No Pride” on the album, one assumes she won’t mind the comparison to Linda Ronstadt. But, truth be told, Karla Bonoff—who wrote many of Ronstadt’s most enduring songs—is an even stronger touchstone. And that’s not a bad thing, especially when you combine Kane’s irresistible voice—you can live in it for days—with hooks as big as those on the lush, anthemic “Ring the Bells,” the witty “Big Baby,” and the intimate, acoustic “Tenderhearted.” Kane also covers “To Lay Me Down,” a lesser-known gem from Jerry Garcia’s first solo album, which will certainly pull in casual listeners from the Dead side of the tracks. Further proof of Kane’s Me Decade leanings is the fact that Highway Bouquet clocks in at a vinyl-friendly 41 minutes. If only other songwriters would take the hint and offer this kind of quality, rather than simple quantity.
Deuxieme album de la new yorkaise Susan Kane. Il a ete produit par le guitariste Billy Masters, connu, entre autre, pour ses prestations aupres de Suzanne Vega et de Richard Shindell. Depuis plusieurs annees, Susan Kane a acquis une solide reputation dans le monde de la musique folk le long du fleuve Hudson. Sa voix sans vibrato est tres pure, assez procohe de celle de Kate Wolf. On retrouve bein sur Billy Masters a la guitare, ainsi qu'au dobro ou a la mandoline. 8 des 10 chansons ont ete ecrites par Susan. Le deux autres sont une belle version de To Lay Me Down des Grateful Dead et Love Have No Pride, chanson ecrite par Eric Kaz et Libby Titut pour Bonnie Raitt, il y a pas loin de 40 ans.
Is anyone's Dutch up to snuff???
Er verschijnen enorm veel cd’s, sommige goede, een aantal uitzonderlijk mooie, zelfs een paar bar slechte. Hoe hoor je het verschil? Simpel; je moet jezelf openstellen, luisteren, en nog eens beluisteren, tijd nemen en aandacht geven. Sommige muziek geeft zich rap gewonnen, voor andere wordt meer moeite gevraagd.
Die laatste categorie is vaak het mooist, zij die zich niet meteen overgeven, maar uiteindelijk toch hun “schoons”prijsgeven. Susan Kane’s bloemenpracht overtuigt meteen. Haar stijl is open en helder. Klank en productie zijn gerijpt, en maken een vlotte volwassen indruk. Deze snelweg pareltjes rollen achteloos voorbij op een zeer aangename wijze, wat deze plaat ongemerkt boven de middenmoot uittovert. Dat ze vergeleken wordt met Linda Ronstadt of Aimee Mann is voor mij niet zaligmakend. Haar zang en de wijze waarop ze haar muziek uitvoert zijn echter dusdanig overtuigend dat ik voor mezelf heb gedefinieerd haar debuut uit 2004 “So Long” aan een verdere analyse te onderwerpen.
Susan Kane proeft duidelijk naar meer, zowel haar eigen geschreven materiaal, als het door haar uitgevoerde klassieke nummer “Love has no pride”van Eric Kaz & Libby Titus origineel afkomstig van de eerste LP van American Flyer. Highway Bouquet is een mooie samengestelde set!
Each month I report to the chart below choosing the best 6 recordings received in the previous month. http://www.euroamericanachart.nl This month's best of are...
Robin Dean Salmon
Come on home
The Long Ride Home
Say Goodbye to Pretty
I dreamt of cows E.P.
Visit FLYINSHOES REVIEW at: http://trailerstarlounge.ning.com
Press/Reviews for So Long
Thank you -- for a wonderful set of music. Your songs and your voice are wonderfully engaging, and Steve really adds a tasteful, remarkable depth and texture to your performance. I know I speak for FMSH and our audience when I say it was our pleasure and a privilege to have you perform for us.
I look forward to hearing you perform again in the future.
“Susan Kane writes the kind of songs I love: rooted in musical and social history, melodies that stick in your head, and she sings in a rich, natural voice that everyone should hear.”
So Long Susan Kane
This lovely set of hummable country-folk, beautifully produced by Billy Masters (Suzanne Vega's guitarist), has been getting some airplay on prestigious folk programs, and deservedly so. Kane has a sweetly unassuming but clear and sure voice, a good command of American idioms from country-western to blues to coffeehouse folk, a knack for homespun melodies, and an ace collaborator in Masters, whose guitar work and production nests the songs perfectly.
Kane sings folk with a country-singer's voice, merging the pure beauty of an Erica Smith with the worldliness of a Joni Mitchell. As with Linda Nuñez (see below), if you like this style of music, you will probably enjoy this strong album through and through.
I have one quibble. Although lyrics, as a consequence of their dependence on a musical setting, generally sound better sung than they read upon the page, Kane's, curiously, go the opposite way. The simple, rather formal beauty of the song structures and melodies seem to contrast with the natural, tumbling quality of the storytelling, resulting - to this ear, anyway - in moments of diminished artfulness.
That aside, this is a fine disc worthy of a place on your folk shelf. Kane and Masters are also a pleasure to hear live, as I learned at a recent show at NYC's Rockwood Music Hall.
The singer-songwriter scene here in the suburbs north of New York City has attracted so many practitioners in the past decade that the murmurs of there being a "Hudson Valley sound" are starting to be heard.
Here they strum: in coffeehouses, natch, but also in bars and restaurants, libraries and museums, social halls at places of worship and concert halls in venues of all sizes. With dozens of carefully wrought, hard-won songs they know by heart or a repertoire of just a few originals and covers, the crowd of folk-centric musical artists working regularly around these parts (and farther afield) offer plenty of entertainment and enjoyment practically every night of the week.
The humblest of these tuneful soirees-"open mic night" performances-are cropping up continuously, in every comer of the county it seems, and attracting a spectrum of talents, some on the cusp of strong regional popularity, all of them ready to win over the intrepid hearts in attendance who are unwilling to surrender to the cultural imperative of television.
Dollar for dollar, plugging into this scene is the best way to feed your soul. The growing presence of teenagers and young adults at the gigs (which are, for the most part, caffeine-charged), underlines the idea that, as the words go, "something is happening here." It's community building in its purest form, exciting and inspiring, welcoming and inclusive, a true reflection of who we are and how we're faring in this world.
Susan Kane comes from the middle-aged caucus of singer-songwriters presently lifting the Valhalla, NY-based Tribes Hill folk music collective, which has spearheaded the singer songwriter scene around Westchester County since the late 1990s, to national prominence (and thus helping to establish the "Hudson Valley sound"). Listening to her debut album, So Long, released in August 2004, it's obvious that she possesses sterling gifts as a vocalist and songwriter, her country-flavored sound a fitting match for the heartfelt declarations and touching narratives that comprise her lyrics.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Kane nonetheless has the mature poise of a music biz vet, and that's part of her allure, undoubtedly, to boomers with lots on their minds. That said, then, music fans who know the digital bits of their Lucinda Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter CDs through-and-through will want to check out Kane. Plus, she's got a local's perspective, too, and that gives her artistry extra credence in the wilds of suburbia.
Kane had just returned from the North East Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conference held last weekend at the Kutsher's resort in the Catskills when I caught up to her by phone at her home on the border between Mount Kisco and Bedford Hills. We'd met a number of times over the years, usually at Tribes Hill gatherings, and while she's been hard at work trying to push her musical career I've always been impressed by her unflagging support for all the other singer-songwriters working in the area--checking out their gigs, helping out with their CDs at the merchandise tables when no one else will, lending glorious harmonies to tunes whenever asked. NERFA stands as a big deal for singer-songwriters, as it connects them with radio programmers and concert booking agents. A lot of the musical showcases don't begin until 2 a.m., and then there are informal "song swaps" throughout the resort in different performers’ rooms that last until dawn. “Forget nerves—the hardest part about being at NERFA is staying awake,” joked Kane.
So Long met with decent success for a debut album released independently. Over 80 radio stations nationwide picked up on it, not including some syndicated programs that reached listeners at 75 other stations, and Kane reported that the buzz hasn't died down yet. Apparently, WKZEFM in Sharon, Conn, one of the region's top stations for Americana musical artists and acts--has just added a few of her songs to the regular playlist.
"When the Roots Music Report put my album on their Folk Chart, I looked at the list and saw a lot of indies like myself, but there were also names like Mark Knopfler on the chart, and that was amazing," she said.
Originally, Kane admitted, she was hoping to record an EP-length demo to be able to score some gigs and enter songwriting contests with. Working with guitar-ace Billy Masters in between his forays in Suzanne Vega's touring band, Kane cut a handful of songs, "but Billy thought they were pretty good and suggested I write a few others," she said.
Some of the songs Kane first recorded for So Long, like "Chicory Blue" and "Truth Will Out," contain "road" imagery, which, she maintained, was appropriate enough. "We're a nation of drivers and riders, really, and here in suburbia you spend a good deal of time in the car. So, it's a universal image, a metaphor for life, and a day-to-day experience, too."
Kane knows suburbia. She grew up in Waldwick, N.J., near the Paramus Mall. Her mother taught piano and her father was an aspiring actor who finally packed it in to sell insurance. When the Beatles hit America Kane asked for a guitar, and by the time she was in 7th grade she was leading her own folk music trio.
She studied economics at Bryn Mawr College and kept up her songwriting on the side, graduating in 1975. After a stint at the European American Bank in Manhattan she moved over to the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, teaching brokers and bankers in the Credit Training Program for several years before marrying and staying at home to raise three children. She continues to pay close attention to financial matters around the world, and in conversation she mentioned how easy credit has "fueled countless personal disasters and supported the growth of the U.S. economy during the past two decades," posing real ethical dilemmas for those working in the banking and credit industries. Her work also' led to factory visits around the country, "which made me glad to have a college _degree," she said, and gave her first-hand look at how globalization was changing the blue- and white-collar worlds. Local governments, she added, "haven't yet recognized" the effects of globalization on their communities and probably won't either "until it's too late."
All this from a Grateful Dead fan. As her kids got older Kane started to feel the itch of performing music again. She helped start a Dead cover band, August West (named for the narrator in "Wharf Rat;' one of the group's lugubrious tunes, sung by Jerry Garcia), in 1998, and then worked in another outfit, Bad Dog, that featured some of her original songs. Coaxed into the singer-songwriter genre by her friend Sloan Wainwright, she has been a regular at Tribes Hill and the open mic scene for the past three years, gradually emerging as an artist with a sizable collection of arresting songs and a shimmering voice that can carry country ballads and rockers alike.
Kane mentioned being inspired by the example of Mary Gauthier, another singer-songwriter who "got into this game later in life;' but expressed no regrets for the roads she's taken.”You do what you do," she said, "and don't look back if you can help it. I don't view my corporate life as a sidetrack I shouldn't have been on. For now, it's great to be doing something new and challenging. I have a lifetime to draw on for my songwriting, and I'm making the kind of music where you don't need a stylist to find an audience."
" If justice were served, "Susan Kane" would be a household name! Her first album is so assured, so full of wonderful songs, so well-produced that in a fair world you'd expect to find her on the cover of Rolling Stone. Susan Kane deserves a much wider audience. She conquers audiences, one coffeehouse at a time." Jim Motavalli, WPKN-FM Bridgeport, CT
"Susan's pure delivery of this beautiful collection of songs [So Long] leads the listener on a sublime sonic journey." Sloan Wainwright
"...listen closely to the lyrics for maximum enjoyment!" Zoe Montana, RadioIO.com
("Rebekah" is) a remarkable portrait...to set alongside "Eleanor Rigby...." Bob Sherman, Woody's Children WFUV-FM New York