Susan Wylde

Susan Wylde
In the Light

Sun, Moon and Star Entertainment

By David Hayward
October 2011

As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad music, only music played badly.” This unfortunately applies to Susan Wylde’s CD, In the Light. It’s good music sung badly. The album spans 12 songs, nearly half written by Wylde herself. The balance includes classic blues and R&B tunes, which she (not her band) butchers.

No doubt she put her heart and soul (and bank account) into this endeavor. She is backed by 12 competent (but not fiery) musicians, and she’s a pianist as well. Tunes have strong intros, tight endings, well-arranged horn sections and competent solos – several firmly in the pocket. There’s also some innovative approaches to some old familiar tunes (such as the jazzy groove they gave “Thrill is Gone”).

But by no stretch of the imagination is she a blues singer -- or perhaps a singer at all -- because she has no lungs to speak of, and generally, she’s flat. Perhaps her most promising and provocative self-penned song, “Push up Bra,” is wishful thinking (pun intended). This tune stands out with its 1920’s New Orleans style. If she were to go on with her career, then old school burlesque is a direction that will take her somewhere as a writer, arranger, producer and perhaps, with a lot of work and electronic enhancement (as is commonly practiced these days), as a singer.

Her burlesque style and wispiness recall Maria Muldaur. But Muldaur, who does sing in tune, would kill these tunes with her bohemian charm. But there’s nothing bohemian or charming about Wylde’s voice on this CD. Given her all-too-straight diction and sour notes, she comes off as a debutante or a PTA member who’s slumming -- or worse -- who’s trying to slum but not actually getting there. With the right vocalese, slumming can be convincingly seductive. (Think of the young Rickie Lee Jones’ first album: a squeaky clean blondie smoking cigarellos, chugging Schlitz beer, Mateus wine or worse, hanging around the wrong side of the tracks and singing so loosely you wonder how many pops she had before she reached the recording studio.)

After being waterboarded by Wylde’s faux blues, each new song starts up with instrumental integrity. You think "maybe she’ll redeem herself with this one.” But alas, she has you crying mercy as she hacks away at great tune after tune: "Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out," "Three Hours Past Midnight," "That's What You Do to Me," "Georgia on My Mind," and more.

Finally, Wylde puts the last nail in the coffin with Etta James’ “At Last” -- an appropriate title for the final cut.

<- back to Features