Suzanne Gladstone is a country/soul singer and songwriter from San Diego. She was born in Oceanside, California and was one of ten children. Her childhood was rather difficult, being raised by her aunt and grandparents after the age of five. She turned to music and poetry for solace and this led to her love of singing and songwriting.
She is self taught and somewhat of a natural, with her paternal grandmother being a jazz singer. Along the way she has found inspiration from such artists as Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Garth Brooks amongst many others. Her voice has been compared to singers such as Shania Twain and Adele.
She has been steadily working on her debut album which so far consists of three completed original songs. In April this year she released the EP I Blew A Wish which has spawned two singles so far, the title track and Barely Felt The Fall, which was released May 21st. A third song, You Are The Reason (My Heart Beats), is yet to be released.
I Blew A Wish is a mid-paced country rock song that acts as a wonderful showcase for Suzanne’s powerful and versatile voice. Starting out with some bluesy harmonica that sets an authentic, rootsy vibe Suzanne then enters and delivers a knockout vocal performance. Holding back on the first verse she gets to unleash the Adele-esque power of her voice on the explosive, uplifting and memorable chorus.
Lyrically, the message is positive and empowering (“Leave those regrets behind”) but also expresses the harder side of life (“Another shot of whisky to get me through”) and Suzanne has the ability to convey strong emotion in her singing in a way that truly resonates in the listener, which is what separates the great singers from the good ones, in my opinion.
Barely Felt The Fall is another original song and has just been released as a single. This one is a poignant and melancholy country ballad that allows Suzanne to give another highly emotive and cathartic lead vocal performance. As with I Blew A Wish, the production and musicianship is exquisite, this one adorned with bursts of lonesome sounding slide guitar. Picked guitar and a melodic piano part are also instrumental highlights of this song.
Again, Suzanne displays her gift for emotional expression, running the gamut of emotions from sadness and regret (“I gave him my all, swept me off my feet”) to feisty anger (“You stomped on my heart“) on the second verse, as well as resignation.
The theme of the song is being heartbroken by a lover who has turned out to be unworthy of her, something many will be able to relate to. She really gets to express her considerable vocal range, especially during the soaring choruses where her singing is literally breathtaking. These two songs prove her both a highly gifted singer but also songwriter.
The other songs currently available on her website are well chosen cover versions which Suzanne interprets and performs in her own, uniquely emotive way. Perhaps aware that this is one of her biggest artistic strengths, she has chosen highly emotional songs that most will be familiar with.
Her version of Say Something by A Great Big World (ft. Christina Aguilera) is a very good reinterpretation that manages to convey a greater depth of feeling than the original. Suzanne’s passionate, heartfelt performance brought to mind Celine Dion and Adele, particularly her song Someone Like You.
Also superb is her cover of the modern classic Make You Feel My Love, originally written by the great Bob Dylan but made famous by Adele. Suzanne captures the poignancy in the lyrics and performs the haunting melody beautifully.
Another touching performance is her rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. By choosing songs that work well for just piano and vocal, it has allowed Suzanne’s voice to take the spotlight and centre stage where it belongs. So much modern pop music finds the singer competing against their overproduced musical backing, but not here.
Next comes a slight change of pace, a lovely version of the timeless jazzy classic Crazy by Patsy Cline. Suzanne delivers a suitably moving depiction of heartbreak and musically the arrangement is of the highest calibre.
After that is another contrast, a great cover of one of my all time favourite songs, the brooding country rock classic Black Velvet by Canada’s Alannah Myles. It’s a faithful rendition that captures all the sultry sensuality of the original, Suzanne getting to show a more edgy side to her musical persona.
The final cover is a real change of pace, an unexpected but very enjoyable version of Bob Marley’s wonderful song Three Little Birds. The light reggae groove and fine guitar work underpin a comparatively understated performance from Suzanne that suits the material perfectly. It shows she can pull off the more light hearted end of the recorded canon.
Overall, this is turning into a fantastic collection of songs for a debut album. Her original material is very well written and performed to an exceptional standard, managing to be both artistic and commercial. On the songs she’s chosen to cover she makes the songs her own through her ability to bring out hidden emotional depths via the power and beauty of her voice. Suzanne Gladstone has got the potential to be as big a star as the singers she idolized growing up.
VERDICT = 9 out of 10