December 17, 2008

...kisses, sweeter than milk

Sunny-sounding Oh Susanna, she of the girlish giggle and warm personality, likes her literature dark and, when possible, slightly morbid - when she takes you down to the river it's less likely to be about tea and oranges than moonshine and murder.
Oh Susanna is actually Suzie Ungerleider, an American-born, Canada-raised Concordia graduate who's upping the ante on '80s cowpunk by taking dramatic inspiration from the sombre songs of the old West, rural Appalachian ballads and the public domain tunes of Americana. And while Oh Susanna is "punk" only in D.I.Y. spirit, there's something decidedly contemporary amid her straight-up strumming and spare acoustic arrangements.

From her stark debut, a superb seven-song EP from 1997, through 2003's self-titled gem, Suzie has always made her home in the arms of emotionally searing material. Her fifth and latest album, Short Stories, is no less harrowing, though its inspiration came from a variety of sources, some of them terribly unlikely: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg, oral historian Studs Terkel and documentary maker Michael Moore.

One of my favorite songs on the album, Filled With Gold tells about the bond between teenaged lovers and their determination to build their life together – like many of the songs on Short Stories, it is concerned as much with what’s not being said. The idea of being young and broke and in love, and that somehow that partnership carrying you through - it's a very romantic idea. A lot of times that doesn't work, but sometimes it does.

Elsewhere, she relied on previously published work as a framework for her own lyrics, which are by turns both heart-breaking and heart-warming. The inspiration for Beauty Queen came from a poem by Sandburg, It's a first-person narrative of a girl who married a guy, a brute, and he came at her one too many times, so she knifed him. At the end, she's sitting in prison, defiantly unremorseful.

Her songs speak of an America that exists down the backroads and blind alleyways frequented by Tom Waits and Neko Case, but Suzie follows her own vision - she tells her stories like no one else.
forever at your feet
A locket on a chain
a bow that's made from rain
a briar grows entwined with rose
I've come to be forever at your feet.

A blossom pages pressed
a knocking at my chest
Oh winding road please take me home
I long to be forever at your feet.

And I hope that you won't mind, my dear
when you see my eyes are lined, my dear
It's because I've waited all these years
for your kisses sweeter than milk

and your touch that's softer than silk
for your treasures I will be
forever at your feet.
download a selection of Suzie’s wonderful songs… (tracklist in comments)

listen to a couple of newly-recorded Christmas hymns…

watch a video for the song "right by your side"


ken said...

Oh Susanna

01 sleepy little sailor
02 river blue
03 sacrifice
04 forever at your feet
05 ride on
06 pretty face
07 beauty queen
08 greyhound bus
09 filled with gold
10 carrie lee
11 right by your side
12 little white lies
13 johnstown
14 alabaster
15 back dirt road
16 tangled and wild
17 shame
18 all eyes on baby
19 roll me on home
20 jackson wilson

C said...

Thankyouthankyouthankyou for the Anastasia OST!!!! Much appreciated!
Happy Holidays!

b said...

I'm so glad you were able to find some gifts you liked! I had wanted to buy the robot earrings earlier in the year, but they are one of the most popular items, it seems, and they only just restocked. They make my heart melt :)

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, too, and thanks for the great music. I like how oh susunna's music somehow crosses the line between spare and elaborate (with the great instrumentals in right by your side, while being both at the same time. I'm listening to her christmas tunes right now as i pack.

Happy holidays, and Merry Christmas!