From the bluesy opening notes of VAGABONDE to the French throughout, this album from renowned musician Susan Herndon is a treat. It's got several of her own songs and a few other tracks, including a song with the late, great Tom Skinner. It'll put a smile on your face from start to finish. (Best albums of 2015)
Susan Herndon: Press
I've been following the progress of VAGABONDE since she launched the Kickstarter in December 2013, and I wondered how it would translate-- if you'll pardon the pun-- for a non-French speaker like me. I'm happy to report the French-Okie English combination is as delightful as a warm croissant topped with Garden Club jelly.
All Fall Down is a topper in Americana country. Beautiful songs, beautifully sung, beautiful accompaniment. Susan Herndon should be recognized and recognized by the Dutch fans. I enjoyed this fine CD.
A couple years ago I got a call to play drums on a CD for a girl singer I had never heard of. Her name was Susan Herndon. The musicians were all top shelf and we spent a couple days cutting some really wonderful material. The last song we recorded was this one ("The Bad Roads of Oklahoma".) I must confess, I had a hard time finding the right groove to play and, as we drummers often joke, “That damn metronome kept slowing down!” All this kept me from really hearing what the song was about.
Flash forward to about six months later, when I received a copy of the CD (All Fall Down) from Susan in the mail. It is really a great record (you should buy the whole darn thing), but that last song on it, the last one we recorded, and the one I couldn’t really hear, now absolutely floored me. It’s the story of a journey home to Tulsa from Texas and the thoughts going through the driver’s head. It’s the song you hear when you turn OFF the radio, and it is a doozy.
Susan Herndon sings the kind of songs that make you feel like hopping in your car, taking a long and leisurely drive through the Osage Hills, pondering the prairie and taking stock in the important things in life. There's something mystical about the voice, the stories and the music, almost as if Herndon successfully captures a world of experience into a brief moment in musical time....
The groove (of Land of the Living) has bopping panache. Her songwriting is characterized by simple charms... a sweetly innocent (vocal) style.
According to her bio, singer-songwriter, Susan Herndon, began her music career during a stint living in France, which helps explain the flashes of a vaguely European je ne sais quoi that flicker throughout her fifth album, All Fall Down. You can hear it in the slightly gypsy, jazzy sway of "Pull," the haunted chambers of "Dry Bones and Dust," and certainly in the way she sings "Vagabonde" in fluent French. But it's her beloved home state of Oklahoma that figures most prominently here, from the flirty, "Oklahoma Girl" to the steely keep-it-together determination of "The Bad Roads of Oklahoma." Similarly, her light and airy voice sounds most at home on the breezily irresistible "Lay Me Down" and the equally buoyant "Land of the Living"-- though Herndon and her two co-producers, Lloyd Maines and Bob Livingston are smart enough to keep the mix good and varied. Of special note are the twilit, "Palestine," with its shimmering rivers of Maines' pedal steel, and the exceptionally lovely, "Everything to Me," which showcases Herndon's casual yet eloquent grace with a romantic piano ballad.
Her lyrics, melodies and the superb ears of Austin, Texas producers Lloyd Maines and Bob Livingston, make All Fall Down a delight to hear and behold. From resigned yet hopeful longing, to joy, to introspective moments to the more lively yet ethereal qualities of the simple act of living in the joy of the moment, make this collection of songs more like an extended visit with a new friend, a kindred spirit... carrying a little country, some rock and roll, a little blues, a lot of folk, a little jazz and some bluegrass.... Watching Susan Herndon perform live is a lesson in joy. She lights up the stage and becomes the animated embodiment of her own musical journey. And she welcomes you in- to become very much a part of it.
... All Fall Down finds Herndon in great voice, with that smoky delivery of hers-- hearbreakingly intimate one moment, joyously buoyant the next-- accented by her trakemark predilection for occasionally letting a beat go by before jumping back in with the rest of a lyric, giving the impression of a skipped heartbeat. And her compositions about life and love are, as always, rich with both insight and nuance, not to mention variety. I can't think of anyone else but Herndon who would follow a number sung (and composed) in French with one about the multitude of sights, sounds and thoughts that have come to her while driving on, per the song's title, "The Bad Roads of Oklahoma."
Susan Herndon has just released the best music of her life with "All Fall Down." Recorded in Austin with a great cast of musicians, it was produced by Texas legends Lloyd Maines and Bob Livingston. From the opening song, "Land Of The Living" this set puts Susan in the forefront of roots oriented female artists, and actually much of it sets her apart from her peers. She is as honest as any Okie I know, a cool jazz singer sometimes and a rootsy red dirt singer as well.
“Herndon is something of a trailblazer, unfettered by labels or boundaries, skipping with ease between genres and showing hints of her inner bohemian. The fact that she often sings in French as well only adds to her already eclectic and independent image…. The most elemental factor of Herndon’s appeal: quite simply, she has one of the sweetest and most comforting voices in Tulsa music. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she’s also a gifted songwriter…With her latest CD, “1,000 PIES”, Susan continues to refine her craft as she presents perhaps her most concise and cohesive album to date. Even as she glides between styles, touching on roots rock (‘At the End of the Day’), jazz (‘On My Way’), country (‘There Is No End To My Love For You’) and smoldering blues-rock (‘King’s River’), the disc never sounds disjointed as Herndon sings from the heart and paints a picture of the people, relationships and landscape around her...
Only Herndon can blend such disparate elements so well and leave a listener wanting more instead of running for cover. The key, truly, is in the honesty of Susan’s songwriting...Yes, the new album shows that Herndon possesses the pop sensibilities of Sheryl Crow, the lyrical prowess of Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones, the swagger of Chrissy Hynde and the elegance of Emmylou Harris.More importantly, though, it reaffirms Herndon’s rightful place in Tulsa’s music scene as an extraordinary songwriter and one of the sweetest female voices in the region."
Susan is one of Oklahoma's musicial treasures with songs and a voice that draw you in immediately. She can sing French one night and be a Red Dirt queen the next. Some as good as Susan move to some music center, others stay and become part of the fabric of our state. If you want to find out what is great about Okie music, see Susan with her great band. She is among a handful of truly great Oklahoma musicians and songwriters.
“Singing French folk songs one night and performing with Red Dirt musicians the next, Tulsa’s Herndon is a versatile and engaging performer whose heart and soul put her in the latter camp, as does original music like ‘Here in the Heartland’, ‘Oklahoma Waters’, and ‘Highway 33 (Home)’, the latter telling the story of the encroachment of the highway on her grandmother’s house, just west of the red-dirt banks of the Cimarron River.”
“As befits Tulsa folk/jazz/red dirt singer songwriter Herndon’s sly-smile-with-a-loud-message style, this album’s opening track, ‘At the End of the Day,’ is an incongruously sunny yet charming meditation on ending a romance and moving on. From the get-go, Herndon shows her mastery of turning an off-kilter phrase as only she can, revealing glimpses through her strange window on a stranger world: ‘The Earth is a blue, blue jewel/Like a rhinestone on your shirt/And I’ve been such a fool/From on high you can’t see red dirt.’Though there is regret on “1,000 PIES”, there ‘Seven Sisters’ throws in a fun, twangy paean to the Pleiades Cluster, signpost in the winter night sky… And speaking of starry-eyed nights, ‘Here in the Heartland’ shows off both the lilting and strident hues of Herndon’s vocal palette admirably in an unabashed, anything’s-possible, arms-open folk love song about getting drenched in love by the Big Dipper. One of the softest songs on the album… is its lone cover, ‘La Fille du Nord,’ Herndon’s French version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country.’ I don’t speak French, but Herndon’s use of the language makes me want to learn if (and hear her do a few of her own songs, like ‘There Is No End To My Love For You,’ en francais).‘Oklahoma Waters,’ one of the album’s stronger tracks lyrically, shows a strong sense of place and plays intriguing games with nautical imagery even as it shows off Herndon’s masterful ability to craft a lament no one had previously thought to put to music: ‘Looking for you between the sun and the moon/I cast these words as runes.’ Rest assured, “1,000 PIES” (expertly crafted, entertainingly quirky) is not all amour, meandering and contemplation, though: Herndon’s angry-sad simmer on the tell-off track ‘King’s River’ makes me think of Dusty Springfield’s mournfulness at the exact same time it makes me think of L7’s rage.Closing track ‘Highway 33 (Home)’ is a trap, but it sounds so good listeners will walk into it anyway. A little piano work leads by turns to an unexpected place, giving a new meaning to the album’s seemingly sweet, carefree title. This one will break your heart a little in the space of its three minutes, 48 seconds. I won’t spoil the surprise; let’s just say it may induce bulldozer-kicking in some individuals.Jazz fans, red dirt aficionados or anyone who’d like to see how Herndon has cross-pollinated these genres with hybrid vigor yet again have to check out “1,000 PIES”.
"PECCADILLOS is a majestic collection of stellar songwriting and storytelling...one of the most musically inclined albums of 2005...Herndon has redefined Oklahoma music once again..."
"If you happen upon a knockout entertainer in a battered straw hat, backed by Red Dirt musicians and singing a song in French--that she wrote--you've just experienced Susan Herndon, a Tulsa-based singer-songwriter of immense talent and charm. Her new double album, 'Peccadillos,' is really something, too."
The guitar-slinging, piano-caressing Poet Laureate continues to beguile the good music-loving masses...with an ongoing series of live performances... Dwelling amid the very same folk/pop/jazz vortex that's home to such songcraft-savvy chanteuses as Carole King, Ricki Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones, Herndon brings an easy-going wit to both her writing and performance. She remains a charmer, and then some. At this point, we'd have to say the secret's out: Herndon's a singer/songwriter who's got it all-- she can play like a devil, voice a lyric like an angel and, if such a weird supernatural contest were ever somehow arranged, clearly out-do either of them as a song-maker.
"Susan Herndon is one of the best singer/songwriters in Oklahoma and her artful music is getting better and better. It's not about some simple 'red dirt' formula as Susan is also steeped in jazz and a style that recalls Rickie Lee Jones or others who don't see a contradiction using jazz chords and writing great pop songs. Folksinger? sometimes, but at her best she is as good as anyone around." ~Greg Johnson, owner of the legendary Blue Door