Susan Santos – No U Turn
10 songs/36 minutes
Susan Santos is a great singer and a clear and straightforward songwriter. However, her true expressiveness comes from her fluid and riff heavy 6 string wrangling. This Spanish lefty plays all the guitar and banjo parts on her new all original record No U Turn. With her sturdy power trio rhythm section of bassist David Salvador and drummer Mario Carrion laying down hopping rock, Santos shares stories of love, loss and empowerment perfectly encased by layers of guitar grooves and slide. Recorded in Madrid and produced by Juan de Dios Martin, who also contributes keyboards and background vocals, No U Turn is a bad-ass rocking guitar record.
The basic model for this record is riffs, layered on riffs layered with fluid guitar solos. A more dynamic ZZ Top experience, but trading soaring sultry vocals for Billy Gibbons wonderfully mush mouthed cool. Opener “Blind Woman” chugs out of the gate with a sticky hard edged guitar riff. Soaring chorus vocals perfectly express the ache of being blind to a lover’s neglect and the slinky slide solo wails with frustration and urgency. The rock continues with the Jack White-esq thump of “Slow Down” and the manic psycho-billy of “Heaven or Hell.” Addictive destructive love is confessed to in the uptempo zoom of “Shakin’ All Over,” with the great lines “My heart is on fire, with a strange desire, your’re my ball and chain, I’m stuck with you.” “Shakin’” has a great octave slide solo and acoustic bottleneck tagline that adds diversity to Santos’ style.
There are a few “feel-good” tracks on No U Turn. Not exactly out of place since Santos and band’s playing is so consistent and fluid. Santos also has the pipes to easily transition from snarl to heartache to low-key cool. “Freedom” has a “Midnight Rider” vocal delivery and major chord early 90’s happy hop. Featuring banjo rhythm accompaniment, “Freedom” jams along. Lovely Harrison style slide and major 6th and 7th chord-ing make the sentimental love song “Green” slowly work it’s intoxicating magic. “Trying to find a way, deep down in you and your rebel heart,” a nice unique way of describing love that matches the use of “green” as descriptors of eyes, smile, and days of “laughs and cigarettes.”
Susan Santos is a guitar hero. She has chops to spare. She is a monster in the studio, overdubbing well performed layers of guitar that sound live and immediate. Santos is also an accomplished songwriter who crafts sturdy, hook laden numbers. This record is Blues-adjacent. It certainly deals with real life emotions, issues and experiences and finds joy, solace and connection (an essential element of Blues). But, there are not any real Blues burners. There is not a traditional 12 bar pattern anywhere. However, for those purists who are looking for this talented slinger to lay it down old school check out some of the YouTube videos of Santos and band. She can get down and weep out a deep 12 bar Blues like nobody’s business. With this her 5th record, No U Turn is a high point for a deep soulful artist in her prime.