Ah, the beauty and sadness of the self-release. Financed by fan power via Pledge Music, the beauty, in the end, is in those fans hearing, seeing, and feeling the end product, but the sad bit is wondering if the world will ever hear it. Susie Clarkes debut album, Here and Now, is a case in point. Blessed with good songs, passionately delivered, and lovingly scored by a bevy of fine musicians, the disc has studio production finesse, and the songs are all Susie Clarke originals, with assists from guitarist Gareth Sandhu. While there are enough plaudits to make waves, its just a shame about the size of the ocean.
Clarke, though, already has form. Runner-up in a big MTV unsigned show in 2008 did not bring the expected fame, but Clarke continued putting herself out there, gathering what she calls the Susie Clarke Collective – talented musicians, producers, and other creatives offering diverse roots and influences. Musically, the result is a fusion of styles embracing pop, soul, hip-hop, and reggae as a counterpoint to Clarkes vocal, which is rooted in folk and soulful blues. This mix adds a vibrancy to the album, with variety the spice.
Here and Now is all about feelings and people who do or dont articulate them. Relationships dont come easy in Susie Clarkes universe. She may be wise to the serial Lothario (I Know Your Kind), yet embraces heartache like an old friend, as in the classic balladry of Like a River. From the breezy staccato pop soul of Sing to Me to gentle acoustic closer Fall Too Far, there is always a welcoming warmth to Clarkes voice. Sometimes the stylized vocal tics threaten to diminish that grace, but the vulnerability still comes through. Above all, she has a sincerity that shines through her songs and makes you believe them.
Essential Tracks: Fall Too Far, Like a River, and Time