Driving Toward the Sun
Driving Toward the Sun is a breakup album, but oh my, how beautifully Susan James has captured every nuance of this ugly little trauma. Look again, though, because this universally identifiable broken relationship is very personally intertwined with a bit of California lore, its songs' double meanings giving the entire album a sumptuous depth.
The title track sets our tragic lady in a hotel room at 5am, a pitstop respite en route to the promised land and a new life, and each song that follows documents another leg of the path to moving on. This is not a linear progression, so you'll have to pay attention to piece together the full, star-crossed story.
"Wandering" seems a memory of this couple's carefree beginning, a slowed down "old coyote sing to me" the only indication of reflective remorse. "Agua Dulce Tears" is one of those double-edged deals I told you about, at once the sweet water of remembered tears and a real town, where I can only assume a dire confession happened to set this marriage on its tumbledown course. Likewise, the "Tule Fog," which obscures the future from an optimistic wedding-day couple, sends many a blinded California driver to his death.
If on first listen you think, "hmm, that sounds like Joni Mitchell," you're not alone, and "Anniversary" cements James to that other California sweetheart, especially in its wavery chorus. But never you mind, this is country music here, and "Mission Bells" has the banjo picking' to prove it.
Kudos to you, Ms. James, this is a gorgeous little album.
Susan James: susanjamesmusic.com