Compass/Planet HARVARD graduate Susan Greenbaum’s decision to quit her day job as an executive in a big US corporation to pursue a comparatively precarious career as a singer-songwriter has not paid major commercial dividends. Not that her heartfelt and hook-laden songs, clad in a genre-straddling mix of folk, blues, country and pop, aren’t worth their weight in gold. Stylistically and vocally she inhabits the same neck of the woods as Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow and other roots-oriented American songbirds. Greenbaum writes intelligent yet refreshingly uncomplicated and honest lyrics that relate to her life but resonate in a wider context. A moving imagined address to a brother who succumbed to cancer sets the tone on her fifth album. Throughout This Life she touches on other matters close to her heart. Many women may relate to sentiments expressed in He’s Not Leavin’, which opens with: He says it’s complicated, he says that he
wants to rearrange his life I say he’s overrated and he already has a wife He says he really loves you, he says that it’s
only a matter of time I say his account is past due, and his word
isn’t worth a dime In Walk In These Shoes, she advocates on behalf of the handicapped: ‘‘ Take a walk in these shoes, take a ride in this chair/ I don’t sing my own blues, I just want what is fair’’. Dark humour and funny twists offset the seriousness elsewhere: The Squirrel Song equates to Loudon Wainwright’s
celebrated Dead Skunk ditty.