Nashville session guitarist Mike McAdam's slick and dirty slide-solo kicks "Little Bit O'Naughty" off, and Greenbaum applies the appropriate vocal sass. "Up On a Hill" is a well-crafted lyrical snapshot of a life unfulfilled, and "Bug and Rain" caps this project with gentle heart. Susan is not all sweetness and light as she breaks with her typically sunny performance disposition at times to rain harsh words on former lovers and corporate executives. But even this comes off as well-earned scorn instead of vindictive nonsense. All of that said, not everything here is perfect. I would quibble about the occasional production that gets in the way of the song, unfortunately the case with the opener "Spin Like a Top." But that aside, this is one terrific package and recommended to fans of well-written, accessible pop songs. If big things are not in this young woman's future, the movers and shakers of the music world are even dumber than I imagine.
Who: Acoustic Syndicate
What: "Crazy Little Life" ****
Where: Swingin' On The Tracks, Science Museum of Virginia, Thursday, Sept. 19, 6-9 p.m. Tickets $8-$10. Meanflower opening.
Why: Unlike other one-sided "Americana" groups, North Carolina's Acoustic Syndicate doesn't let the banjo take over. In fact, thankfully there's little bluegrass in the mix. Not that there's anything wrong with bluegrass, but let's face it, everyone's doing it. Instead, the predominant sound is a lazy, roots-rock swagger with sweet and airy vocal harmonies. It makes you feel like bouncing, but just slightly. The accordion intro on "Crazy Town" gives it a little zydeco twist. The lightly rolling guitar and percussion work on "Carnival" sounds reminiscent of something from Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints." There's potential for banjo and guitar improvisation, and judging from the company they keep at Farm Aid, Bonnaroo Festival and Telluride Bluegrass Festival it's pretty much a guarantee. This month the 10-year-old band will be releasing its fourth album, a double live CD called "Live from the Neighborhood." Carrie Nieman