CD Oh Susanna [Oh Susanna] (CD 4491275),
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Oh Susanna [Oh Susanna]

  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): HOT1093CD

  • Credits
    Producer
    Engineer

    Oh Susanna: Suzie Ungerleider (vocals, guitar); Travis Good (guitar, fiddle, background vocals); Colin Cripps (guitar, melodica, background vocals); Luke Doucet (guitar, background vocals); Bob Packwood (piano); Bazil Donovan (bass); Joel Anderson (drums, background vocals).
    Recorded at The Bathouse and The Woodshed, Ontario, Canada.
    It's an old trek what is called roots music these days to something closer to rock, and Suzie Ungerleider, aka Oh Susanna, makes it on her eponymous album. Rock is, of course, a relative concept, and on this album it's the Americana variation, low on tech but rich in feeling. (The only keyboard on the album is acoustic or electric piano; even a B-3 is apparently too slick for this mix.) But there's greasy slide and pounding drums on tracks like "Right by Your Side," with down-home horns that add up to a Band feel over a toned-down Stones groove. The I-VII-IV chord change coming out of the verse on "Mama" also has a Stones quality, and the vocal line on "Mama" echoes "Angie" a bit, but the feel here also draws from Uncle Tupelo and more contemporary variations. Ungerleider's lyrics address love in language that can be blunt "Little White Lies" or coquettish "Carrie Lee," with a delivery that brings out the poetry in even the most prosaic lines; on "Down by the Quarry" she achieves an especially vivid synthesis of all these elements, with swampy fiddles and rawboned harmony helping to bring the scent of backwoods romance to life. At an opposite extreme, the distant, dreamlike electric guitar on "Zoe," a peek into a child's moment of epiphany, recalls some of Patty Griffin's best work. (In fact, by closing with the reflective vocal/piano piece "Billy," Oh Susanna follows the same closing dynamic as Flaming Red.) The album comes as well with a 9/11 eulogy, though "Cain Is Rising" darkens its indignation by targeting equally the Twin Towers bad guys and the politicians who "say it's time to fight this little war" after ignoring more endemic social ailments; it's a more subversive message than even that of "John Walker's Blues." For all these comparisons, though, Oh Susanna really is about the emergence of a distinctive artist, whose antecedents are clear and yet whose future seems assured. ~ Robert L. Doerschuk

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