An Eclectic Gastronomy of Sound
An occasional feature showcasing music by little-known artists who (generally) only put out one or two albums.
Introspective singer/songwriters were seemingly a dime a dozen in the late 80s/early 90s – especially female ones (Suzanne Vega, Jewel, Shawn Colvin, Lisa Loeb, Tori Amos, etc.) Suzi Katz, however, released two such albums (Suzi Katz, 1991 and Three Day Rain, 1994) that were unique in that on both she teemed with experimental/atmospheric guitarist Steve Tibbetts and his long-time musical partner, percussionist Marc Anderson. Katz’s songs were very good to begin with, but with the added musical textures from Tibbetts and Anderson they become something different, something more.
Tibbetts’ and Anderson’s expansive playing ties in well with her lyrics and themes. She’s open to weather and earth, such as in “Colors of the Land”:
“Walk outside you change colors / Outside your four walls / I’d like to see you free / I see the colors of the land / Reflected in your eyes / But do you know / What lies under the grass beneath your feet / Rich black soil and dry brown clay / The roots of trees and stones / And light at the very core”
And open also to the at-times almost mystical power of nature, a reverence she sometimes connects with through Native American cultures – either echoed musically or more directly in songs such as “The People”.
Other times she experiences life with the sensitivity of a poet (“I feel summer breathing / panting hard at my window sill” – “Not Just the Sun”). Katz is good at balancing “the big picture” and the personal. Many of her words read like diary entries by a keen observer of life and of herself. Listen to “Dark Sky and An Airplane” (“And now I’ve decided / That it’s good for me to be alone/ This is not a love song / I noticed it on the way home”) or “Hungry Dogs” (“Lonely day, I’m half awake / Roads go nowhere slowly / Hungry dogs behind my house / Scratch the walls for company”)
In “Ghost in My Arms” [listen], she’s very human and vulnerable as she sings about a lover “You’re a man, not an angel / Don’t tell me I know”, on one hand conscious of her love-fog obscured vision but on the other not quite willing to admit she isn’t still hopelessly lost (cue Air Supply’s “Lost in Love”…or better yet, maybe don’t.)
Two albums, three years apart – the last over 20 years ago now. It’s safe to assume we won’t be hearing more music from her. Though stranger things have happened – a 40+ year gap lay between Linda Perhacs’ first and second albums. However, in a few brief emails I exchanged with Suzi Katz a while back she seems to have left that part of her life behind her, and now owns a small web design company. Yet, those two albums, with their adventurous, yet intimate spirit are ripe for rediscovery and reissue. It just takes the right record label….
(Both albums still available, along with audio clips at CDBaby)