march 2011

Susan Wylde: A classic pop singer’s voice informed by a blues babe’s sensibility…

Yet Another Side of the Blues

By David McGee

Susan Wylde
Sun, Moon & Stars Entertainment

With a classic pop singer’s voice informed by a blues babe’s sensibility, Canada’s Susan Wylde presents intriguing musical possibilities and no small number of persuasive performances of her original songs and well-chosen covers on In The Light. The past couple of years have seen the emergence of big-voiced blues women, but Wylde has a lighter, airier tone with a wistful shadow about it; though she works in a blues style, you can easily here some of her songs reconfigured as cabaret tunes. Or, if you’ve heard her two previous albums (Shambhala and Evolution), you can hear them as jazz or, indeed, pop numbers. This is an artist who works the blues from many sides.

On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to lose the frisky vibe, pungent, crying blues guitar and blurting horns from her inviting entreaty, “Love Me All Night Long,” now would you? No, not anymore than you would want to recast the touching love letter to the Crescent City, “I Can’t Tell New Orleans Goodbye,” without Wylde’s own rippling piano, the intermittent cry of the horns leading to Colleen Allen’s evocative tenor sax solo, and the arrangement’s easygoing, seductive sway in support of Wylde’s tempered, touching vocal. Which is maybe to point out that however much her tunes might lend themselves to other styles, as blues-based numbers they hit the mark pretty well. Arguably the best of these is the self-affirming “In the Light,” with its carpe diem message of rising above despair to engage the moment fully, to live and love without fear, set to a cool, swaying R&B groove propelled by Dave McMorrow’s tinkling piano and Allen’s pumping tenor sax.

Seven of the 12 tunes are covers, including some evergreens Wylde tackles with winning conviction and--true to the message of “In the Light”--without fear. “Georgia On My Mind” is one of these, which she approaches somewhere between a hymn and its original incarnation as a pop song. Wylde delivers a warm, thoughtful vocal, unembellished and focused on the soul of the lyrics, as a stately organ underpins an easygoing arrangement flecked with warm tenor sax fills, moody piano and Pete Schmidt’s ruminative, lovingly rendered guitar solo. She follows “Georgia” with an interesting take on “The Thrill Is Gone” that supplants the original’s sense of regret with a more measured acceptance of and moving on from love having fled the scene. Jack deKyzer’s guitar pays homage to B.B.’s rich tone, McMorrow’s organ adds a lush sheen, and Allen’s tenor sax provides a little extra bluesy oomph to buttress Wylde’s cool, dispassionate vocal--if you could say B.B. was deep inside the song when he cut, it would be fair to say Wylde is on the other side of it; if B.B.’s pain was palpable, Wylde’s hurt has evolved into a benign, somewhat detached dismissiveness--when she sings “I can wish you well” at the end, it’s almost an afterthought. Closing out the album and a potent trifecta of classic covers, Wylde assays Etta James’s “At Last” in a sensuous arrangement leaning on subdued organ, piano and tenor sax to fashion a dreamy mood for her satiny, pop-styled vocal. Ray Charles (okay, and Willie, too), B.B. and Etta will always own these songs but hats off to Susan Wylde for finding her own way into them while honoring the timeless versions in spirit. Her original songs show the same respect for their influences, with the end result being a big win of a third album for this much-honored Canadian artist as she makes a play for wider recognition of her work in the States.

Susan Wylde’s In The Light is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024