Kite Records, 2012
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/27/2012
Here’s a story you don’t see often. Born into a religious sect she later became conflicted with, Susan Justice took off to New York to play the songs she started writing at age 14 in the subways. She actually drew large crowds during these impromptu sessions and earned enough money to fund her first CD. She was subsequently was discovered on the streets and signed to Columbia Records for her first formal album, the aptly titled The Subway Recordings (released under her given name, Susan Cagle); a compilation of two live sets from Times Square and Grand Central Station. Another big break came when Aaron Comes (of Spin Doctors fame) saw Justice live and introduced her to legendary producer/songwriter Toby Gad, a pivotal point in her career.
Right off the bat, Eat Dirt lets you know her voice is clearly in a league with any current pop stars. The woman can sing, her sultry and soulful voice easily being the focal point here. Though she works with primarily a folk pop and rock template, Gad injects some R&B and jazz moments, as Justice delivers emotive wordplay about perseverance and self-reflection. “Born Bob Dylan” showcases her penchant for timeless melodies, while the piano driven sparseness of “I Wonder” brings things back to basics in the most compelling way. Perhaps the most animated track, “You Were Meant To Sing” finds a funky groove, punctuated by Justice’s playful vocal work.
An endeavor that will be relevant at any point in time, Justice’s balance of calm, soothing song craft versus louder, power building and her contrast of heartbreak versus hopefulness make Eat Dirt a universally appealing listen of robust melodies and empowered storytelling. Though Justice may be a youngster by most standards, her music contains a lot of maturity, and her delivery belies a sophistication beyond her years. Not too many street performers have the attention of the world’s ears, but this woman is clearly on her way to becoming a household name.