CD/Digital, Sirenwire, 2020
Life consists of journeys, the most arduous of which have a starting point but no definitive end point and no defined duration. “I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together?” marks a milestone in one of those journeys but to understand it’s significance, we first need to understand the story behind its conception.
At the beginning of 2019, Susan Matthews was looking forward to a busy year working on music projects, releasing the music of like-minded musicians through her Sirenwire label and continuing to work on her vintage clothing company, Cherry Pie Vintage Clothing. All this stopped when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After successful surgery in March 2019 and with bruising to her chest, shoulder and arm, Matthews suffered a further setback when her left hand became infected where a canula had been placed. Although it forced her to reluctantly cancel a long-awaited live performance, Matthews would not be defeated; she was determined to salvage something positive from the situation.
She set up a microphone for her piano, positioned herself where she would be able to play with minimal movement of her left arm and hand and started to improvise.
The first few keys of “I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together?” must have been intensely uncomfortable to play and that is reflected in the space between each note. Nevertheless, those first few tentative notes radiate with a familiarity that comes from returning to something you love.
As it evolves, this almost 14-and-a-half-minute track gently shimmers with hope, emanates defiant optimism and allows for moments of quiet reflection. It feels like it is straight from the heart as it runs through the emotions Matthews must have felt and probably still feels as she continues her journey. It feels like it is straight from the heart as it runs through the emotions Matthews must have felt and probably still feels as she continues her journey.
From those first few tentative notes and throughout the emergence of the fuller piece, “I Am In Pieces, Can You Hold Me Together?” acts as a conduit for artistic expression and offers an emotional outlet for its creator. It may have been physically painful to record and undoubtedly emotionally draining on many levels, but it also marks Matthews’ return to making music.
To complicate things further, the current Corona virus lockdown has brought with it new emotional and logistical challenges. My hope is that it also gives Matthews the time and space to once again ignite that creative spark and get back to recording music as and when she feels ready to do so.
The signs are good; Matthews has already started work on her next two projects. The first is an album of new music entitled What The Darkness Takes which is being released a track at a time as each is completed, with a possible physical release of the compiled tracks at the end of the project. The second is the follow up to A Kiss For The Umbrella Man, her 2011 tribute to Erik Satie.
It is truly wonderful to see Matthews back making music and let’s hope she goes from strength to strength in every sense, both artistically and personally.
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