Susan Angeletti,
(Oar Fin, 2004)

A rising star has emerged high above the musical horizon with a dazzling display of talent, shining like a beacon in the night. Bittersweet, the latest recording from singer-songwriter Susan Angeletti, illuminates the soulful purity of the blues and the hard driving intensity of rock 'n' roll with unbridled passion and heartfelt emotion. Angeletti's no-nonsense, high-voltage performance style, continues captivating blues enthusiasts as well as the rock 'n' roll faithful all across the country.

Receiving high praise for her debut release, Next Years Model of the Blues, Angeletti soon discovered her loyal fan base had quickly expanded into a major following, playing to packed blues clubs and music halls throughout New England. After she absolutely electrified the audience when opening for legendary bluesrocker Johnny Winter, manager Teddy Status wasted no time signing Angeletti as Winter's touring opener. Her first national tour -- performing to sell-out crowds at popular concert venues up and down both coasts -- proved a major turning point in her career. Angeletti's solid debut release and successful tour experience generated quite a buzz, catching the ear of multi-talented producer Tom Hambridge. Hambridge has collaborated with several artists on a variety of projects, but is best known for his work with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Susan Tedeschi on her celebrated debut, Just Won't Burn.

Hambridge was so impressed by Angeletti's talent, he agreed to produce her next recording. After working together on a few arrangements and reviewing several new songs Angeletti wrote with her Seagull (model S-6) acoustic guitar and on piano, they agreed on final selections for the new album. The result of this dynamic duo's creative efforts is Bittersweet, a powerful, robust recording firmly planted in rock 'n' roll with a noticeable late '70s Jagger/Richards influence heard throughout.

What's most distinctive and inspiring about Bittersweet is the soulful essence of Angeletti herself, a singer-songwriter whose amazing talent just radiates throughout this latest release. It's difficult trying to categorize Angeletti in a specific genre, considering she easily incorporates a variety of musical formats into her repertoire, representing each one with infinite exuberance and emotional purity. Her unique performance style is honest and straightforward, very authentic and deeply heartfelt. She vocally articulates the stylings of artists like Janis Joplin, Etta James and Tina Turner with remarkable detail, blending them together into a genuine sassy style, truly all her own. Compared at times to these legendary women, Angeletti equally shares their instinctual expertise when expressing that gutsy, raw emotion especially performing on stage as it erupts from a place deep within her soul.

Bittersweet contains 12 tracks of original songs and co-writes by Angeletti, as she vocally delivers a wealth of emotion, conveying both the pleasure and pain of the human experience with commanding authority. She vigorously exercises her vocal prowess on the opening track, "Don't Want Your Love," a solid rock tune with Angeletti grabbing your attention right from the very first note and never letting go. She's backed by a group of experienced, wily musicians who know exactly how to drive the message home with some sizzling harp solos by Stuart James and blazing fretwork by Pat Buchanan. The following track, "Go to Hell," is a tasty, fast-paced rockabilly tune, seasoned with plenty of Chuck Berry flavor. Tony Harrell lets loose on this fan favorite, tearing up the ivories and motivating you right up outta your seat. Another great track is, "Love Doctor," and this spirited blues shuffle finds Hambridge keeping a steady beat as Buchanan offers up a generous portion of stinging guitar licks. Angeletti is heard having a heck of a great time on this one, serving up some sassy vocals and spicy attitude.

Just when Bittersweet sounds like a stick of dynamite ready to explode, Angeletti eases off the throttle to explore the pain and sorrow of lost love and a broken heart on several ballad tracks. This is where Angeletti truly shines, not only as a talented singer-songwriter, but also as a gifted storyteller, especially with sensitive subjects on ballads like, "Feel Love Tonight." Here you'll find Angeletti sharing the pain of loneliness -- "don't want much, just hold me tonight" -- the intensity of that lonely ache is painfully expressed through the depth and grit of her sultry vocals, along with some poignant guitar solos by Buchanan. "Nowhere to Run," is an originally penned southern rock-style ballad with Angeletti singing about a broken heart with such sincerity you begin feeling the pain literally pouring from every verse. The background vocals and guitar solos only add to the emotion. A personal favorite, "Feels Like Rain," is slower paced soft-rock ballad with a just hint of R&B, as Angeletti delivers an extremely soulful and moving performance, effectively showcasing the overall theme by vocally accenting both the highs and lows of the experience.

"Tears are fallin', tears are fallin', they don't wash away the pain.
...I keep on hopin' this love ain't broken, but it just don't feel the same.
...feels like rain, feels like rain...."

Bittersweet's final track is the Janis Joplin classic, "Piece of My Heart," an appropriate selection by Angeletti as a personal tribute, honoring the legendary singer whose spirit and unforgettable performance style were a continual source of inspiration. I was guilty of assuming she would cover this popular classic with the same amount of intensity found on the opening track. Instead, she maintained the strength and staying power behind this hit song, while poignantly emulating her personal admiration and respect. The sheer emotion and soulful, sultry texture heard during Angeletti's vocal performance might just tug a little on those heartstrings.

After listening to Bittersweet, I'm sure you'll agree Angeletti's greatest, most valuable instrument is her amazing voice. She knows just how to stir the soul when singing the blues and knows just how to tear the roof off when it comes to rock 'n' roll. Bittersweet is an excellent recording, a true showcase of this singer-songwriter's amazing talent, a CD you'll listen to again and again.

I strongly encourage you to attend one of her live performances, because she'll blow you away. Not only does she have the vocal chops, she knows just how to deliver them -- her stage presence and vocal delivery are well worth the price of admission. I had the good fortune to see Angeletti perform on stage for the very first time, when she opened for B.B. King at the Calvin Theater. I was impressed with the way she immediately took command the moment she stepped on stage, firmly holding this sell-out, standing-room-only crowd's full attention right from the very first note. After finishing her final number, the entire theater seemed to explode, the crowd stood there yelling and cheering, unwilling to let her go. After a short break, B.B. King appeared on stage and commented to the crowd how impressed he was with his talented opening act.

Angeletti is the real deal, and her live performances are something you experience and won't soon forget. She'll make her way across the room, reaching out to everyone in the audience, giving them absolutely everything she's got with every fiber of her being, pure heart and soul. You begin feeling the emotion and meaning etched behind the music itself, a rare gift indeed. This newcomer continues turning heads and has established herself throughout the music community as a powerful performer. Her latest release is definitely sending a message, telling everyone: "Susan Angeletti is here to stay!"

In fact, she has a brand new CD called Live in Concert: 99 & a 1/2 Won't Do! (Oar Fin, 2005). This new release contains seven tracks highlighting songs from several performances, including cuts from the Calvin Theater gig with B.B. King. If you haven't had the opportunity to experience this amazing singer-songwriter in person, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of this live recording.

- Rambles
written by Pamela L. Dow
published 10 September 2005

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