“Ultimately it’s rare to find an artist so willing to invest her psyche so fully into her songs, but the return on Cattaneo’s commitment also makes for a compelling set of songs.” -American Songwriter
“She rocks with the best of them and also sings ballads so sweetly and lovingly that it can bring tears to the eyes of those listening.” -No Depression
Told by music business experts that the album was dead, singer-songwriter Susan Cattaneo decided to double down on it, literally. Her new double album ‘The Hammer & The Heart’ comes out August 25 on Jersey Girl Music. “Musicians make albums because albums allow you to tell a bigger story,” she says, “and this is the story of how I went from almost giving up to rediscovering the joy of making music – thanks to a wonderful community of musicians and friends.”
Cattaneo self-produced the album, calling on a large number of those friends to collaborate on it, 41 of them to be exact. They range from national stalwarts of the Americana/roots rock scene, like The Bottle Rockets, the Titan of the Telecaster Bill Kirchen, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Erelli (Lori McKenna, Paula Cole), to British guitar virtuoso Davy Knowles, to ace players like first-call guitarist Duke Levine (Peter Wolf, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Garland Jeffreys), Kevin Barry (Roseanne Cash, Peter Wolf, Marc Cohn), Jim Henry (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tracy Grammer), Marco Giovino (Robert Plant, Tom Jones, Buddy Miller), and Stu Kimball (Bob Dylan), to some of the best artists from the Northeast Folk and Americana music scenes like Jennifer Kimball, Nancy Beaudette, Amy Fairchild, Todd Thibaud, to Susan’s own bandmates The Boxcar Lilies.
“In The Grooves” music video (OK to share): https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Originally from New Jersey before embedding herself in the cauldron of Nashville, TN’s Music Row and now settled in Boston, MA as an artist, songwriter, and professor of songwriting at Berklee College of Music, Cattaneo posits that ‘The Hammer & The Heart’ includes all sonic aspects of that journey. It ranges from straight-out rockers like “Lonely Be My Lover”; the boot-scooting, honky tonk ode to vinyl “In The Grooves”; as well as tender ballads like “Ordinary Magic” and “Fade To Blue.” The key song of the album is titled “Work Hard Love Harder” and serves as the manifesto of the record: a musical reminder to focus on the things that really matter in life. Two different versions of the anthem headline the two records: The Hammer, the electric side, and The Heart, the acoustic side.
As she has established herself deep in the New England folk and roots community, she found herself collaborating with a new peers, both on stage and in the studio. She has co-written songs by many New England favorites, including Dennis Brennan and Jenee Halstead who returned the favor and appear here. Those collaborations culminated when she joined established folk trio The Boxcar Lilies, a project that she is pursuing in parallel with her solo activity.
‘Haunted Heart,’ from 2013, saw outlets like CMT.com, American Songwriter, No Depression, and WUMB embrace her. In the past three years, Susan has been a finalist and performed at the most prestigious songwriting competitions in the folk circuit: The Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Contest, The Falcon Ridge Festival Emerging Artist stage and The Wildflower Festival.
The Hammer & The Heart took form over several years of work. “I heard Bruce Springsteen talk about recording his double album, ‘The River.’ In his interview, he said that after emerging creatively out of the intensity of recording ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town,’ he felt the need to make a record that represented the full experience of his live shows; both the serious songs and the fun party songs. I was struck by the parallel to my career. I came from recording ‘Haunted Heart,’ which was the record where I let all of my skeletons out of the closet, to this group of songs, and I realized that I wanted to create an album that could capture both my upbeat rockers and my slower ballads.”