Susanna Van Tassel
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Oct. 11, 2002
Susanna Van TasselMy Little Star (The Music Room) There's something almost eerie, or otherworldly, about Susanna Van Tassel's voice. Human voices crack, croak, sputter, and fail, but hers doesn't. It's as pure as a stream that might flow through the "golden rolling hills" of her idyllic "On the Hill." In any case, Van Tassel's honey-coated soprano is as good a reason as any for the phrase "honky-tonk angel" to exist. Better yet, this second album shows the local honky-tonker becoming as strong a songwriter as she is a singer. Penning all but one of the album's 12 tracks, she tackles familiar country subject matter (family and fidelity, mostly) with a perspective that nurtures familiarity without falling into cliché -- she even gets away with a lullaby to her young son on the moonlit title track. As most albums produced by Jim Stringer, the arrangements on My Little Star are impeccable, particularly the combined pedal-steel talents of Marty Muse, Kevin Owens, and Tommy Detamore, but also Meat Purveyor Pete Stiles for a delicate mandolin turn on "I Had a Feeling." Still, it all comes back to Van Tassel's voice, and whether gliding through the swamp-poppy "Takin' My Time," giving it some extra gas on "A Love That's True," or negotiating the only five-syllable word in country-music history on Mel Tillis' "Unmitigated Gall," it's one for the ages. One minor criticism: If the bright lights and temporary heartache cures of "Closing Time" can seduce this heavenly creature, what hope is there for the rest of us?