Essential Listening on Several Levels, Not Just Musically
As is my won’t I deliberately didn’t read the accompany Press Release to this Album when albums first arrive; letting my trusted ears tell me if I liked it or not ….. and I most certainly did; that’s for sure.
Had I not; there was always the danger that I may have thought that this was a dreaded Concept Album and a bit too ‘worthy’ for my tastes.
You, dear Reader can buy it for either or both reasons; and I suspect many will fall for the Power of Advertising and part with their hard earned cash because Susan Anders has written and performed 13 songs about 13 Extraordinary Women in US History; which is obviously a good thing; but only listening to the songs with that in mind means you are going to miss so very much from Ms. Anders exemplary writing skills and fabulous voice.
The rather beautiful and enigmatic Just Give Me Everything opens the album and almost instantly had my heart going to mush. What a finely tuned and powerful love song; and only afterwards, when I discovered that it was written about Helen Keller did it take a sharp turn in my mind.
That’s the beauty of this album; Susan Anders writes about specific characters; yet doesn’t ever come near drifting into Theatrical Biography; although listening carefully I think I have learnt a little bit about Josephine Baker (the sassy A Little More from Josephine) and Amelia Earhart (What Women Can Do) than I did before; but the songs stand up on their own some anyway.
Then again; not knowing who Henrietta Swan Leavitt or Martha Gellhorn were before hearing My Life in The Stars and Witness; but both of these tragically beautiful stories/songs have made me do a bit of research on both …… and I urge you to do the same after buying the album.
Track #2 Spell, is a bit of a cornerstone for the album as at first it just sounds like a great bittersweet love song; but delve deeper (and then read the attached story) and you will find Susan has inhabited the character of Sarah Wildes from the Salem Witch Trials and turned it into a clever, contemporay Folk-Gospel ballad.
Quite often the songs themselves are just rather lovely; and the stories behind them can and will be lost on the listener; but I urge you to read the accompanying booklet while listening to You Healed Me (Inspired by: Henrietta Lacks who had cells taken from her body without her knowledge were grown to use for medical research!!) and The Wave That Rocked Me (about sculptor Edmonia Lewis) and you will realise that the education system has missed a trick or two over the years.
On an album like this, where you can listen on several different and enjoyable levels where do I go for a Favourite Track?
Peace Pilgrim could easily have fallen into the ‘worthy camp’ that I so feared; but is actually a powerful tale of the good in people sung in almost frantic and breathless fashion; and will certainly make you prick up your ears on every chorus.
I very nearly chose the jaunty song about Rosie The Riveter; Girl You Never Knew simply because it’s a cracking and crackling song in it’s own rite; and I love the Rosie the Riveter iconography anyways.
But two other songs actually stand out for many, many reasons.
Open Prairie is a windswept and almost Alt. Country ballad about the ballsy true story of Lucy Goldthorpe who, in 1906 left Iowa for Dakota where she became a homesteader; without the aid of a man in tow!
When they find out what the actual story behind Maud Stevens Wagner’s amazing story in Under Your Skin is about, many of my friends will be stunned that I’ve selected it as my Favourite Song here; but it’s a simply fabulous love song; about …… “he first known female tattoo artist in the US.”
I hate tattoos; but this song and the story behind it actually quite spellbinding; and Maud Stevens Wagner should be a name that trips of most young women’s lips as a heroine; but without this song I fear she would have been lost to the annals of time.
That in itself is why this album works; the songs are ‘great songs’ but scratch away the surface and the actual stories behind them and the women involved are the type of things that I want; no …. NEED my Granddaughters to know about and be inspired by.
Released March 5th 2021
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