Review of Sue Harding's Album, Flight, 2016
Written by Chris Watson
Frome based singer/songwriter Sue Harding has been writing her own original songs since, in her own words, for ever... but it was in late 2016 that she produced her first CD with Producer Josh Clark and accompanied by Bath guitarist Ali George.
It was on a sunny afternoon in June 2018 at the Nunney Acoustic Cafe that I first heard Sue; she appeared mirage like in the doorway of the Nunney Hall venue in flowing dress and carrying her guitar like an old friend and settled to await her slot on stage. She carried off an accomplished standing performance of three songs from her album and I remember her unique voice and presence entrancing the audience, including my friend and yours truly; we bought the album on the day.
There is no doubt that her CD Album, Flight, is beautifully produced and has an emotionally blue and eye catching album cover by Vic Martin.
Sue, although a home grown English southerner, creates an Americana style all of her own with a pure ethereal voice that echoes from the Backwoods to the Prairie on a gentle breeze. They are songs that lift the heart. She has been influenced over the years by the great poetic songwriters of the sixties and seventies Dylan, Mitchel, Cohen and by the traditional music of the Americas and the celtic diaspora.
Her songs are either very personal or based on an imagined American folk story transcending time. However the listener knows which of them you could personally identify with and it always indicates the strength of a song. The guitar accompaniment lulls the soul along with restrained vocal harmonies and the occasional harmonium.
The Album starts with "Firebird" which is an upbeat song and maybe the most "commercially" popular at her performances and is followed by the sadness tinged ballad, "Keepers of the Stream", a song title worthy of the fantasy imagination of Prog Rock, but which cheers the heart with its lilt. "Johnny Slim" is pure story-telling of an unlucky man where life has let him down, a familiar story, with a some nice slide guitar taking you into that Western feel. "Verses from the Gulf" is a very personal cry out resulting from Sue's sojourn teaching in Abu Dhabi following a relationship breakdown.
The next song is a short simple love song and one of those you would have liked to be written for you; we surely want someone to "shine on you", don't we; the starting lyric of "I can hear you breathing" invokes a warm animal cosiness that we all hanker after. "Sweet lonesome" is an amercanism we all recognise, but again speaks to many of us who would rather not be lonesome tonight! The "Campfire Waltz" evocatively recalls a moment in time between two lovers and "Sandytown" refers directly to the situation of the workers in the Emirates...a lament for the lost souls trapped in an existence by circumstances.
"Little bird" is about a free spirit existing in the deserts of life and again inspired by the middle east and followed by the edgy "millionnaire highway", once described as thrash folk, which is another popular song at her gigs and with a catchy chorus we can all sing along with. "Angel Ridge" is a walk down memory lane for two lovers and a gently optimistic song with enchanting harmonies and nice guitar; bizarrley it is also a housing estate in Swindon where I am sure the sun goes down occasionally in that commuter region. Finally "Prairie dreams" takes you out to the gently crackling camp fire on the range with the cowgirls and cowboys of life....
This is the purest Americana to charm you on a cold day or a quiet night and a poignant mixture of personal hurt and the imaginary West. Production is all about creating a "sound" and Josh brought a really personal feel and clarity to this collection that makes you feel that Sue is just singing to you.
Sue has been gigging locally throughout the summer and building further live experience and I am pleased to say that she has used some of my video work of her performances. Sue appeared at the Midsomer Norton Festival, The Archangel, Frome, Headlined at the Royal Oak, Bath, the Hollybush, Bristol, the Swan at Swineford, Beyond the Kale, Bath and the Bath Folk Festival (Green Park). She plays and sings regularly with the Frome Celtic and Transatlantic Group. This year, she has featured in dedicated interviews at Frome FM and Somer Valley FM.
Sue is currently working on her second Album of new songs and maybe touring Canada in 2019 where her style of Americana may be more unique and popular than American versions of the genre......
Sue's music can be found at: