Well, when I slid the CD out of the mailer, it looked like tightrope time again, Among the Stars a guitar/voice duet, one of the most dangerous outings in music: just one instrument, just one voice. But as soon as Tony Romano's exceedingly delicate fingerpicked chords shimmered out from the speakers on the very first cut, Howard Bart's classic Fly Me to the Moon, I knew there wouldn't be a problem in the world. That was reconfirmed as Suttenfield next tackled Neil Young's Harvest Moon in a way it's never been sung before, breathy, wistful, at times exquisitely hesitant, thoughtful, dreamy, a lover's smiling melancholy that balances memory with anticipation. If you don't get misty-eyed listening to it, then check your pulse, you may be eligible to co-star as one of the shambling slubgobs in The Walking Dead.
There's no audience on this recording, but the gig had to have been recorded live to two-track, or whatever the modern equivalent is, 'cause you can hear every inch of the space in real time, with no gimmickry, no doo-dads, just a rendering of a coffee shop hipster environment on a quiet night. I used to visit Two Dollar Bill's in Venice Beach every so often, and this is exactly what that sounded like: small room, intimate, relaxed, a cool gig. Suttenfield is given completely to breathy singing, and there aren't very many of her ilk about nowadays—I'm not sure there ever were—so that alone is attractive because one is rarely treated to so thorough an immersion in so languid an environment. She and Romano match perfectly: spare, quiet, thoughtful, sensitive.
Favorite cuts? The aforementioned Harvest Moon and Goffin-King's One Fine Day, barely edging out People Will Say We're in Love. Among the Stars is night music for when you walk through the front door exhausted after a rough day at the office, turn the lights low, grab a glass of Madeira, and just want to forget the world. You can do that here, remembering better days even though they may be bittersweet, reminisce on youth, and then ponder just what the hell is going on in the world, wonder what on Earth happened as the path got more and more tangled. Kelley Suttenfield's voice, interpretations, and delivery invoke that kind of milieu and stand out from the pack by noiselessly slipping by it. As I inferred earlier, I doubt there are half a dozen CDs like this in the country.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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