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Susan Cattaneo

Brave and Wild

(Jersey Girl; US: 1 Apr 2009)

Authenticity is often overrated in music. For example, it doesn’t matter if Bruce Springsteen really is a working class guy. What’s important is that he convinces the listener he is while he sings a song from the perspective of the common person. That’s the problem with Susan Cattaneo’s music. I have no idea if she’s actually dealt with the problems of alcoholism, cheatin’ lovers, or romantic obsessions. The lyrics seem correct in their use of detail. The melodies hit all the right notes. But somehow she doesn’t seem believable. When she sings about turning “Whiskey into Tears” I get the feeling that maybe she spent one night drowning her sorrows, but that she really doesn’t know the pain of addiction. I don’t know all the details of Cattaneo’s biography, and life experience has shown me over and over again that some of the most sincere and true people can initially come off as false. But this is music not nonfiction, and Cattaneo’s well wrought tunes come off as artifice more than art. She sounds truer on more mundane material like “Red Light Kiss”, but if her passion just extends to bussing while waiting for the traffic signal to change, than she needs to live life more fully before she writes about it. She doesn’t sound very Brave and Wild.


Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.

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