Sensational New/Old Release from Suzy Bogguss


American Folk Songbook

Loyal Dutchess Records 1006

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Suzy Bogguss fans--and if you’re not one, why not?--will be delighted with her latest record, American Folk Songbook. Bogguss, you may recall, was a country music queen in the 1980s and 90s--back in the days when they could airbrush and package her as a lil’ darling. When she decided she wanted to take time off to raise a family and maybe do something a bit different, Big Music dumped her like a hot potato.

Well… she’s now a graceful woman of 54 with a stunning voice and in charge of her own destiny. Her Website tells of how she had a revelation when appearing on A Prairie Home Companion. The audience went nuts over her rendition of “Red River Valley,” which became the germ of an idea to pluck seventeen old chestnuts from the American standards bag instead of making another Nashville flavor-of-the-month record. You’ve heard everything of American Folk Songbook a billion times, but Bogguss will make you feel like “Shady Grove,” “Erie Canal,” “Shenandoah,” “Wayfaring Stranger” and other such ilk are as fresh as a “Wildwood Flower.” Speaking of the latter, you’d better have the chops to do a song that everyone in America associates with either the Carter Family or Joan Baez. No fear. Bogguss presents mature full-throated renditions of everything on the record. Her controlled vibrato in turn stuns and soothes. Like the person fully in command of her craft that she is, Bogguss makes each song the star, not herself, as if she’s the conduit connecting the American past to the present. This is also the ethos of the top rate talent that backs her--folks such as Stuart Duncan (fiddle, mandolin), Pat Bergeson (guitar, harmonica, Jew’s harp), and John McCutcheon (hammered dulcimer). Nobody’s showing off here; as the liner notes accurately note, the goal was to keep everything “simple and beautiful.” Mission accomplished. By the time we get to the final track, “Beautiful Dreamer,” we are ready to roll into the sweet arms of Morpheus.

This album should receive serious attention for a Grammy Award. And wouldn’t it be delicious irony if it wins?

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