Single Review: Susan Gibson – “Compassionate Combat”

Susan Gibson – Compassionate Combat

image courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media

Single Review of Susan Gibson: “Compassionate Combat”

Susan Gibson released “Compassionate Combat” this past spring, in the middle of a spring surge of COVID-19. The single was released in conjunction with the Compassionate Combat website to help raise money and awareness to support nurses in thanks for their tremendous service during this pandemic.

I reviewed Susan’s last album, The Hard Stuff, here at the Blog last fall. As I discovered at the time, Susan is a celebrated songwriter with a deft touch at creating heartfelt, moving lyrics whose and a singer whose voice is exceptionally well-suited to delivering both the message and the emotion in her songs. “Compassionate Combat” is no exception. Musically, the song is softly instrumented, with soaring components supporting Susan’s heartfelt, emotional vocals.

Of course, Susan is an exceptional lyricist, and this ode to nurses during a time of crisis will warm hearts and jerk tears, from the verses to the chorus of “We ask so much of you. Leave your families and your homes for the work you gotta do. You are the miracle, the gift, pulling 18-hour shifts of compassionate combat. How do you thank someone for that?”

Whew! [sniff!] I’m not crying – you are.

“Compassionate Combat” was produced and engineered by Billy Crockett at his Blue Rock Studio in Wimberley, Texas. Billy is an exceptional singer/songwriter in his own right, widely revered for his talent as a musician, and his studio is a place where musicians and their talents are celebrated. Of course, regular Blog readers may recall a live Billy Crockett performance review and a review of Billy’s CD Rabbit Hole, both back in 2017.

Reflection

I received this single back in March, and once I began to fall behind on reviews, I assumed the topic would no longer be timely by the time I got around to writing the review. Vaccine rollout was well underway, and appointments were hard to come by, as millions of vaccines were being administered each day. I anticipated that by this summer our hospitals would no longer be overrun. And, though vaccination rates are high and hospitals are not in a state of crisis here where I live, that is not true everywhere. I hope the next surge we see is that of vaccinations, so serious illness rates will decline and, in the vein of this song, our valiant nurses and other healthcare workers whose emergency rooms are still under siege will soon get some relief from their… compassionate combat.

Looking Ahead

Susan has a few performances scheduled in Texas this month – tonight, Friday, November 5th in LaGrange and nightly performances November 17th-20th in Austin, Fredericksburg, Santa Fe and New Braunfels – in addition to a women’s writing workshop on November 6th and 7th in New Braunfels. You can find additional details about these events and a January 14th show scheduled in Austin (and others, as they’re added) on the “tour” page of Susan’s website.

Album Review: Susan Gibson – The Hard Stuff

Susan Gibson

photo by Bill Ingram; photo courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media

Album Review of Susan Gibson: The Hard Stuff

The Hard Stuff is a collection of familiar-sounding, easy-to-get-into, memorable songs. Not surprising, given Susan Gibson‘s songwriting pedigree. “The Hard Stuff” and “Lookin’ for a Fight,” for example, feel like songs you might hear from the (Dixie) Chicks. That what my first impression, made before reading Susan’s bio, which tells me that Susan’s song “Wide Open Spaces,” was a hit on the Chicks’ 1998 major label debut.

Susan Gibson - The Hard Stuff album cover

image courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media

Released in 2019, The Hard Stuff was Susan’s first full-length album since 2011’s Tight Rope, with EP Remember Who You Are filling the void in 2016.

There are so many potential hits – or, at least, potential personal favorites – on The Hard Stuff it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start with the first track, “Imaginary Lines,” with thoughtful verses that ebb, flow, and surge interestingly, leading to a heartfelt, memorable, catchy, emotionally energetic chorus.

Next, there’s a nice, forward-moving energy – kind of an almost Barenaked Ladies tempo – to “Antiques,” whose chorus reveals the song’s topic: “Gettin’ older ain’t for the weak. It only happens to the strongest ones. They aren’t useless, they are precious antiques. Better treat ’em like one.” As is so often the case on The Hard Stuff, the song is a lyrical goldmine atop an engaging melody that’s easy to enjoy even if you’re not paying attention to the lyrics.

Susan Gibson

photo by Dave Hensley; photo courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media

“The Hard Stuff” is a rhythmic tune with attitude. As I mentioned earlier, it reminds me of a Chicks song in style, tempo, and (of course) attitude.

“Lookin’ for a Fight” has a more ominous tone and western flavor to it, sporting the singalong-able chorus: “Hey, Jack, you’ve got something to prove. You think your dirty looks will make the mountains move. ‘Out of my way!’; that’s your attitude. There you go lookin’ for a fight.”

“The Big Game” showcases a precision of vocal delivery and lyrical wordplay, and not just the obviously clever “Why ya gotta make it so hard for me to be easy?”

As I mentioned, the disc itself is full of songs that will be personal favorites, varying wildly by person, and the next two are likely to fit that description for a decent subset of of listening audiences. “Diagnostic Heart,” I know, will appeal to some with its introspective noodling. Others will be drawn to the nostalgically delivered tale of troublemaking pasts, “2 Fake IDs.”

The disc’s energetic mid-speed musical motor returns on “Hurricane,” a song that’ll have you bobbing and weaving in your seat a little while listening thanks to its engaging tempo.

Susan Gibson

photo by Dave Hensley; photo courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media

“Wildflowers in the Weeds” is next; it’s yet another song I expect to be a frequent fan favorite, a pleasantly melodic tune that may particularly hit home for those who identify parts of themselves in the lyrics.

And the album concludes with “8 x 10,” a banjo and fiddle-powered, down-home reflection on home, history, and memories of loved ones no longer with us.

The entire collection, The Hard Stuff, is a truly exceptional disc, with the songwriting, the emotion, and the performance composing an enjoyable, heartfelt whole package. If any of what I’ve written appeals to your musical tastes, check this music out; you’ll be glad you’ve given Susan’s album a spin.

Looking Ahead

There are no upcoming live shows listed on the “tour” page of Susan’s website; that’ll be where you can find her gigs when there are some. You can also keep an eye on the “events” tab on Susan’s Facebook page.