HIGHWAY BOUQUET is Hudson Valley singer songwriter Susan Kane’s second CD.
A beautiful voice, a distinctive point of view, and a knack for memorable melodies make her more than just another musician to listen to.
Her songs draw on many strains of roots-based music, from folk to blues to country.
Produced again by Billy Masters, the new CD has two cover songs, and eight new originals.
Like her previous record, So Long, the songs range from spare acoustic arrangements to expansive full instrumentation productions, all in the Americana idiom. The production aims to fully realize the aesthetic of each song. But the songs also stand on their own performed solo, or with minimal accompaniment. Her songs often have a bittersweet tone, albeit intimate and warm.
The specifically autobiographical “Kesey” tells the story of a horse she owned for much of her adult life, and is a poignant musing on mortality. The first track “Ring the Bells” is stirring and anthemic. “Big Baby” winks at the inner child in all of us. “My Father’s Tattoo” is completely fictitious, although inspired by real front page news.
There are many talented musicians contributing to the disc, including fiddler Lisa Gutkin from the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, and Marc Muller (Shania Twain, Steve Forbert). The album is named for a line in one of the songs, and is echoed in the cover art, a photograph of a sculpture, “Bouquet 1” by New York artist Carson Fox. It’s slightly ambiguous, intentionally so, recalling the makeshift memorials one sees along roadways.
Born in New York and raised in various suburban locations by artistically inclined parents in New Jersey, Susan was drawn to music at an early age, but wandered away from her mother’s conservatory piano repertoire to the homespun vibes of acoustic folk and twangy country music.
The rise of Bob Dylan and the ubiquitous presence of folk music on top40 radio and pop music outlets of the time called to her. “My mom is actually from Wheeling, West Virginia, home of WWVA and its famous Jamboree USA country music show. “She used to joke that I must have some hillbilly blood in me somewhere.” Kane dropped the piano and picked up the guitar around sixth grade, promptly forming an all girl folk trio which performed for a couple of years. Then she went solo and sang folky, protesty, singer songwriter stuff with some Beatles thrown in. There was a college duo with a guy partner, who turned her on to the Grateful Dead.
“I immersed myself deeply in their work, which most people probably don’t realize are about half covers culled from just about every genre.” After college, she played just for her own enjoyment, and got back into performing in the mid 1990s, logging time in the corporate world and raising a family with her attorney/writer husband.
She only started to write songs about 10 years ago. She was in a rock band that started doing original material, and thought, “maybe I can do this, too.” When the band wound down, she found herself coffee with local indie goddess Sloan Wainwright who said “Go to the folk world.” And she hasn’t looked back.
Her debut CD of all original material, SO LONG, produced by acclaimed guitarist, arranger and producer Billy Masters, was released in fall 2004. Produced by Billy Masters (guitarist for Suzanne Vega, Cry Cry Cry, Richard Shindell), the album showcased Kane\'s lyric driven songs about relationships, nature, wry observations on various contemporary follies.
Several tunes won songwriting awards. SO LONG earned spins at over 100 radio stations nationwide. Susan has played (and continues to appear) at a wide variety of well-known venues and festivals in the Hudson Valley and metropolitan area, including the Towne Crier Café, the Peekskill Coffeehouse, the Bitter End and the Pleasantville Music Festival. She has shared bills with such diverse artists as Pete Seeger, Dar Williams, Sloan Wainwright, Terence Martin and Girlyman.
With her warm, mellifluous voice, listeners are often reminded of other singers, but can\'t quite come up with a name. The voice has a distinctive quality that\'s hers alone, although Mary Chapin Carpenter, Aimee Mann, Linda Ronstadt are sometimes recalled. Although she’s come later in life than some to the art of songwriting, she has no regrets, and has found that writing and performing are the most gratifying and humbling experiences one can have.