Susan Gibson - TightRope

Known to most people as the writer behind the Dixie Chick's "Wide Open Spaces," Susan Gibson has also been an established singer/songwriter for many years now and has just released TightRope through her own label.

In 2010 Susan Gibson was in a car accident that broke her arm, dislocated her shoulder and shattered her wrist. Now, a year later, she is back on the scene with her new album, TightRope. A year is a short period of time for such a recovery, but a touring musician does not always have the luxury of time. Time is an important theme on TightRope, time, mortality and the little things that make up the parts of life that we enjoy. These themes are common enough themes, and TightRope is a common enough album, which does not mean its not an enjoyable album. It is a collection of pretty songs done in the best folk-country tradition. For those of us who miss the music of Lilith Fair, this album is almost comfort food. TightRope is a quiet album of simple songs, falling somewhere between the better works of Susan Werner and Lucy Kaplansky.

The opening track “Evergreen” uses changing leaves as an almost too literal metaphor for change. The song, however, does contain some nice vocals and lines like “just 'cause I'm running, don't mean I'm hiding.” “I'm not the road less traveled, I'm just a rocky trail,” she warns on Hope Diamond before advising “don't make me your Hope Diamond when I'm just a shiney stone.” “Hope Diamond” is an interesting song, with a catchy melody. “Its Raining Outside Today, Hooray,” is about the Southwest and its unique ability to drop a foot of rain in an hour, all without breaking a drought. The title track is a fairly predictable with another fairly trite metaphor, which is elevated by some lovely mandolin work courtesy of Gabe Rhodes. “Happy With Nothing” continues with the theme of songs that are about exactly what the title suggests, this time using the device of winning the lottery as a starting point. “Lovely When You Cry” is a melody tribute to a stoic friend and the moment when Gibson and co-writer Jana Pochop saw a chink in her armor. “A Stray” finds Gibson finally using a metaphor well, turning a ballad about a wandering pup into a meditation on trust and intimacy. “Oil and Water” is a clever love song which inverts the metaphor. “You're not my type, and that's a good thing, cause my type kind of bugs me,” she muses before reminding the listener that oil and water can mix “just gotta shake it up.” Another of the album's best songs is “Wood Wouldn't Burn,” a true story about the guitar equivalent of Roy Hobb's bat, Wonderboy. On her final track, Gibson manages to find the balance that most of her album has been missing. “Passing Through” uses travel as a metaphor for life, but also weaves in relationship woes, suicide and a fine dose of quippy humor. “It doesn't have to kill you, the prospect of rebirth,” she gentle chides a loved one, “just stop through my neighborhood on you way back through.”

There is nothing very innovative or groundbreaking on Susan Gibson's TightRope, but that does not keep it from being a good album. And there is a feel to this album, a vocal sound accompanied by the sparse instruments, combined with the philosophical lyrics, that will fill a void that has been missing since the 1990's. TightRope has a quiet beauty that recalls an era of folksy women and coffee house meditations, and does so in a manner that avoids the most glaring of naval staring excesses. For those of us who lived through that era, it is one that most of us are happy to revisit. For that reason alone, TightRope is the perfect album to curl up with on a cold and quiet afternoon.

Buy: Amazon.