Review: Linda Sutti – Wild Skies

Posted on: Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015

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Linda Sutti – Wild Skies

(Cable Car Records: CCR 0311-44)

When Linda meets Henrik, great things happen. These aren’t immediately clear but slowly a door opens, ever so gently, to reveal subtle delights. This is the debut album from the singer-songwriter from Piacenza, Italy, and the fact that her talents have fallen under the guidance of German blues master Henrik Freischlader, is something we should celebrate. She produces a superb showcase of her versatility and he delivers no less than a production masterclass.

They got together to perfect the songs, all written with the impressive confidence of those who have perfect command of a second language. There’s a jazzy feel to a lot of the set but with plenty of bounce along the way as Sutti veers occasionally to a poppier sound before turning it down as she enters a smoky late-night mood while still remaining, just, the innocent side of sultry. She has a folk-blues pedigree and is a big fan of both Janis Joplin and Sandy Denny. Touches of Norah Jones, Suzanne Vega are briefly brought to mind but the high-quality variety of Sutti’s output puts her in a bracket of her own.

Freischlader does what Freischlader does – the whole job, well almost. As well as co-writer and producer he plays guitars, bass and drums and arranges the session band’s keyboards, pedal steel and strings to perfection. Light and shade are consistently in contrast with backing vocals usually used just to add colour to a certain phrase before he lets Sutti stand alone.

Opener “Hurry” deliberately lets us do just exactly the opposite offering a gentle jazz feel with an almost reggae beat and suitably chunky guitar and organ.

The poppy, almost anthemic “Try” hits territory occupied by many a smash-hit, in the pop-country crossover world anyway. Sutti’s phrasing is spot-on and Freischlader adds yet more subtlety. Not for the last time here, he adds waves of cymbals to rush behind some elements of the song and the stripped-down build-up to the final chorus is a masterstroke of understatement.

“Every Tick Of Our Time” overtures with a gorgeous string section before Sutti’s almost narcoleptic delivery lazes over simple acoustic guitar. The violin and cello then return alongside Omer Klein’s wonderful piano.The duo get all Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger on us with “Down The Road” even if the psychedelic snarl here is fat, distorted guitar rather than organ.

In that parallel world mentioned earlier “Silence” would be the big-hit follow-up. There’s that cymbal rush again before Freischlader’s guitar solo unexpectedly blasts the song into orbit only for its perfect landing just ahead of the song’s gentle chorus and abrupt ending. The funky “Dear Mr So-and-So” gives Sutti the chance to rock out but, of course, she does so with fine restraint.

Back in that imaginary world I seem to have created for Sutti’s chart success, the pop-rock finale “No Fear” would surely be the ideal B-side of either of those two big hit singles – and again showcases Freischlader’s guitar work. The four songs I haven’t mentioned aren’t too shabby either.

Okay, this isn’t really a blues album – and we have been a little tardy in reviewing it – but this is surely one of the best debut releases of 2014.

JOHN BOTTOMLEY

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