Highways, Ghosts, Hearts & Home
It’s impossible to listen to this album and not know instantly, without any doubt, that Susan James is from California. Something about the otherworldliness of her voice and the quirkiness of her lyrics instantly tie her to the Golden State. It’s equally impossible not to find yourself liking someone who sounds like the place they live, or perhaps it’s the inherent cheeriness that she conveys that make you want to like her.
This is James’ fourth album, her first ‘Life Between Two Worlds’ was financed by ‘a legendary Apple computer founder’ who, having heard her playing in a coffeehouse gave her a paper bag full of cash. Only in California!
The album’s opening track “Airstream Girl” pretty much lets you know what you are going to get from the album – light, bouncy and not too serious. That it is followed by a track entitled “A Weed Is Not A Weed (When It Grows Where It Belongs)” only cements this initial conclusion. Possibly, the album would benefit from being pared back a little by losing some of the psychedelic backing music, but maybe in doing that some of James’ personality would also be lost.
Despite, or possibly because of, all of the album’s lightness, it is the one depressing song that is the standout track. “How To Fix A Broken Girl” is beautifully accompanied and a haunting antidote to the surrounding cheeriness.
This is by no means a great album, and James has a voice that some will find grating, but nonetheless it is an album to be listened to on a cold dark winter’s evening when the mood needs to be lightened and toes need to be tapped.