Suzy Bogguss – American Folk Songbook
2011, Loyal Dutchess Records
2011, Loyal Dutchess Records
Look up integrity in the dictionary, and you’re likely to find a picture of Suzy Bogguss nearby. Bogguss rose into the upper echelon of Country Music artists in the 1980’s and 1990’s with her traditional sound and style. Hard work and great songwriting landed Bogguss the spot of the first female featured performer at Dollywood in 1986, which led to a record deal with Capitol Records. For the next thirteen years Bogguss was a commercial and critical darling. Bogguss took a sabbatical in the mid-1990’s to start a family with husband Doug Crider, and when she returned the Nashville musical landscape had changed. Traditional country music was out; pop-country and the flashy style of artists such as Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Martina McBride was in. Bogguss continued in her traditional style, putting out albums that were critically lauded but did not produce the record sales Capitol hoped for. By 1999, Bogguss was on her own again, and in 2001 she started her own imprint, Loyal Dutchess Records. With an impressively loyal cadre of fans around the country, Bogguss has been able to continue to do what she loves.
On July 19, 2011, Suzy Bogguss releases American Folk Songbook, a collection of classic Americana offering in updated but reverent arrangements. The project was born from a realization that music education in American schools is sorely lacking, and Bogguss’ desire to ensure that the musical foundation of American culture is preserved for future generations. It is an effort that is both noble and inspired. As always, Suzy Bogguss’ voice is warm and sweet and full of a vivacious joy at performing. Her sound illuminates songs such as “Shady Grove”, “Banks Of The Ohio” and “Sweet Betsy From Pike”. Specific songs stand out, however. “Shenandoah” is a thing of pure beauty, and Bogguss infuses “Red River Valley” with a sort of optimistic fatalism that is quietly startling.
“Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier” is a heartbreaker, beautifully sung and played. Bogguss and her band have fun with “Ol’ Dan Tucker” and “Rock Island Line”, the latter starting as a mid-tempo number and turning into a barrel-run at the end. Bogguss leaves listeners with chills with the darkly beautiful “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”; then turns the corner with the quietly catchy “Careless Love”. Bogguss and her band offer up a pair of subtly beautiful instrumentals in “All The Pretty Little Horses” and “Git Along Little Dogies”. “Erie Canal” is presented as a melancholy ballad, while “Wildwood Flower” is an upbeat folk number highlighted by hammered dulcimer. Bogguss closes the only way such a collection can really close, with Stephen Foster’s classic “Beautiful Dreamer”, with a simple-yet-lush performance that will stay with you long after the CD or your player’s CPU stop spinning.
Suzy Bogguss has long shown a respect for the roots of American music, from her long-time association with classic forms of country to her flirtations with jazz and folk. Bogguss brings it all home on American Folk Songbook. With a lyric voice that melts into your ears like butter, and a backing band that would be welcome on any stage in Nashville, Suzy Bogguss charms and enchants listeners with music that gets to your heart, and comes from the heart of a cultural heritage that is too often forgotten. American Folk Songbook is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc. Don’t miss it.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)