Friday was a big day for me. I had looked forward to Trump’s inauguration, for sure, but what really made it special was the notification that singer Suzy Bogguss had started following me on Twitter. I’m not sure why. It can’t be politics. Maybe she’s just following me back, but I started following her a couple of years ago. I’d like to think there’s something to it. A guy can dream, can’t he?
As I’ve mentioned a time or two before and will take the liberty of repeating this morning, I flipped over Suzy when I first saw her perform with her band at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis in 2011. I wrote about the show here. Suzy played many of her hits and previewed her then unreleased recording of traditional American music. She has a moving voice and a perfect feel for great material, including the traditional music she brought back to life on the subsequently released American Folk Songbook. She is an incredibly engaging performer and a gifted interpreter.
Suzy had hits galore gracing the charts when she first made a name for herself in country music, but she has been pursuing her muse outside the confines of a big label for the past several years. In 2001 she founded Loyal Dutchess Records for her recordings. In 2014 she took to Kickstarter to raise $75,000 for a collection of songs by Merle Haggard that she titled Lucky. I declare it a marriage made in Cosmic American Music heaven.
Suzy explained: “As with the last few records I’ve made, I spent my own money to record and mix this album. Now, I would really like to give Lucky the promotion and push that I think it deserves.” She offered some interesting opportunities in her Kickstarter post. I couldn’t hit the $10,000 level that would have brought her to my home for a performance, but it gave me a new goal to reach for now that our daughters have all graduated from college. I signed up for an autographed disc with bonus cuts and a Lucky t-shirt.
Suzy has been touring in support of Lucky. She appeared for two shows at the Dakota in Minneapolis this past May. We sat at a table up close to the stage during the first show. From our table I snapped the photo above of Suzy with Charlie Chadwick on bass and Craig Smith on lead guitar.
As always, it was a beautiful show. Suzy doesn’t save her best stuff for the encore. Her first four songs in the first set were a Johnny Cash oldie and three of her own hits: “I Still Miss Someone,” “Outbound Plane,” “Someday Soon,” and “Aces” — a grand slam if there ever was one.
Last year Suzy celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of her 1991 album Aces with the release of Aces Redux. On Aces Redux she reorients the songs around mostly acoustic instrumentation. I rate it Wow! The video below presents the title song as it sounded on the 1991 album. The song was written by the folk artist Cheryl Wheeler, whom I have seen perform it at the Cedar Cultural Center. Cheryl does a great job with it, but there is a reason Suzy turned it into a hit.
“Today I Started Loving You Again” (video below) is off her collection of Haggard songs on Lucky. Even if Merle himself fell out of favor on country radio, it’s hard to believe there isn’t a place for Suzy on the commercial side of the current country music scene.
Before the last number of her encore at the Dakota last year, Suzy testified to her fondness for the Dakota and its servers, who unobtrusively do their work as she does hers. She then praised the room’s acoustics and stepped out from behind the microphone to demonstrate them as she performed “Red River Valley” unamplified. It was a special moment. The video below gives you her recorded version of the song from the American Folk Songbook disc.
Suzy covered the pop tune “If You Leave Me Now” on her offbeat Sweet Danger recording, which I love. She caught me by surprise when she performed it the first time I saw her at the Dakota. It’s one of my favorites in her exceedingly rich catalog.