Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Suzy Bogguss

Written by Bob Losche.

Suzy Bogguss has been my favorite female vocalist for about 20 years now. The first time I heard her was on some TV show with Jerry Reed in 1991. She sang “Aces” and “Night Riders Lament” and I was hooked. Since then, I’ve seen her in concert about a dozen times from New York to Nashville and in-between. She still tours on her own in addition to her “Wine, Women and Song” shows with great songwriter friends Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters. Suzy has done some writing herself having co-written 56 songs, including hits “Hey Cinderella” and “Just Like the Weather”.

Besides attending her shows, I have all her albums. In reviewing her 2007 album “Sweet Danger”, the bossman here at CU, Kevin Coyne said “the arrangements of the songs are subtle and low-key, allowing for the vocals to shine and the songs to work on their own merit, not through the bells-and-whistles of clever production”. I believe that Kevin’s statement could be applied to all of Suzy’s albums.

Suzy never throws away a lyric. You never have to guess at the words she sings. Back to Kevin again – In his review of her last single “In Heaven”, he said that “her voice is still as pure and clear as a mountain stream, and she instinctively knows the great truth about singing that too many women these days never learned: it’s not about power, it’s about sincerity”.

Chet Atkins was a big admirer of Suzy, saying “I don’t like hot dogs and I don’t like anchovies. I don’t like people who say there are too many guitar players in the world, and I especially don’t like singers who sneak up on their notes. But I like Suzy Bogguss…she is always in the tone center, her voice sparkles like crystal water, and she ain’t all that bad looking boys and girls–she’s only one of the best.”

As other writers in this series have mentioned, I found it difficult to get down to 25 songs. Suzy’s highest charting single, “Drive South”, didn’t make my list. Here are some of my favorite songs by Suzy Bogguss:

#25

“Shenandoah”

From the 2011 album American Folk Songbook

A beautiful rendition of a traditional American folk song said to date back to the early 19th century.

#24

“Nobody Love, Nobody Gets Hurt”

from the 1998 album Nobody Love, Nobody Gets Hurt

A Bobbie Cryner song about a would be robber who hands the girl behind the counter in a convenience store a note that he meant to say “Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt”; he wrote “Nobody Love …”

#23

“Outbound Plane”

from the 1991 album Aces

Her current love has flown but she knows she’ll fall in love again in this Nanci Griffith and Tom Russell penned song.

#22

“Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me”

from the 2003 album Swing

Duke Ellington composed the music and Bob Russell wrote the lyrics for this song from the 40’s about not paying attention to rumors. Ray Benson produced the album.

#21

“When She Smiled at Him”

from the 1994 album Simpatico

A father daughter song, written by Michael Johnson and Joanie Beeson, that begins “he wasn’t prepared for a daughter, he thought how nice a son would have been, but she had her way with her father, when she smiled at him”. OK, it’s a sweet and sentimental song. Add a star if you have a daughter. I do.

#20

“Somebody to Love”

from the 1998 album Nobody Love, Nobody Gets Hurt

Her last single to crack the country top 40 was written by Matraca Berg, Suzy & hubby Doug Crider. The girl is brokenhearted and wants somebody cause the night is long. But “she’s got to be tough and hold out honey cause, what you really want is somebody to love”.

#19

Diamonds and Tears

from the 1993 album Something Up My Sleeve

In an article Kevin wrote on Matraca Berg, he said the song was “Berg’s finest philosophical moment, a reflection on how the journey of life is its own destination. Even lost love is a form of “higher education”: “I have said and heard the word ‘goodbye’, felt the blade and turned the knife sideways. But I crossed bridges while they burned, to keep from losing what I’ve learned along the way.” The song was co-written by Gary Harrison.

#18

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

from the 2001 album Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

The song is based on the Longfellow poem, “Christmas Bells”, which was written on Christmas Day 1864, a few months before the end of the Civil War. Verse two expresses despair that there’s no peace on earth. In verse three, joy triumphs: “then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth he sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

#17

“In Heaven”

from the 2007 album Sweet Danger

Solely written by Doug Crider, who has written 184 songs, this song always gets to me. Since I can’t think of a better way to say it (how’s that for sucking up?), I’ll quote Kevin again from his review noted above: “As Bogguss asks her deceased husband for his blessing on the new love she has found, all of the shades of emotion are there in her multi-layered performance: fear, apprehension, guilt, joy, sorrow. You can feel the conflict inside of her character as she sings every line.”

#16

“Goodnight”

from the 1999 album Suzy Bogguss

This Charlie Black and Dana Hunt song is a perfect fit for my playlists of songs mentioning a U.S. city or state. The woman is trying to get back with her lover, but keeps just missing him. The chorus goes “So goodnight Raleigh, goodnight Durham, goodnight Atlanta and Macon and Jacksonville, Live from high atop the hood of my car, I’m signing off, sweet dreams baby, wherever you are”.

#15

“She Said, He Heard”

from the 1996 album Give Me Some Wheels

A song Suzy wrote with Don Schlitz about the different planets men and women sometimes occupy. “She said ‘I’m mad’, he heard ‘I’m leaving’, she said ‘I’m sad’, he heard ‘It’s all your fault’.”

#14

“How Come You Go to Her”

from the 1992 album Voices in the Wind

A what’s she got that that I ain’t got song from Anthony Smith, Michael Garvin and Suzy. “You said it was heaven in my arms, so how come they ain’t holding you.”

#13

“Cold Day in July”

from the 1992 album Voices in the Wind

“You always said that the day you’d leave me, would be a cold day in July”. I love the Dixie Chicks but Suzy’s earlier recording of this Richard Leigh song from 1981 blows them out of the water.

#12

“Just Like the Weather”

from the 1993 album Something Up My Sleeve

Her man is thinking about leaving, so she uses the changeability of the weather as a metaphor to convince him to stay and tough it out. A Bogguss-Crider writing collaboration that resulted in a top ten hit.

#11

“I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”

from the 1989 album Somewhere Between

Suzy’s cover of Country Music Hall of Famer Patsy Montana’s signature song first released in 1935. Love Suzy’s yodeling.

#10

“Saying Goodbye to a Friend”

from the 1996 album Give Me Some Wheels

A song from Angela Kaset and Doug Gill about trying to get over the loss of a loved one. Lines like “These little things that shouldn’t matter, make something inside me shatter” and “like a scene in a rearview mirror, I thought I’d got past it, now I’m looking at it again” reflect the singer’s state of mind.

#9

“Handyman’s Dream”

from the 1989 album Somewhere Between

A bouncy Gary Nicholson-Pam Tillis tune about potential as expressed by lines like: “I’m a little rundown from lack of attention, but my possibilities are too numerous to mention” and “I need a man who’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves, If you could only picture what the end result will be”. Hmm.

#8

“Someday Soon”

from the 1991 album Aces

An Ian Tyson classic, first recorded in 1964. The woman’s problem: “He loves his damned old rodeo as much as he loves me.” Today her problem would more likely be playing golf or watching football.

#7

“Letting Go”

from the 1991 album Aces

A song from hubby Doug and Matt Rollings that parents sending their kids off to college for the first time can appreciate. I speak from first hand experience.

#6

“Eat at Joe’s”

from the 1992 album Voices in the Wind

In this Berg-Harrison tune about a waitress in an all night diner, Suzy’s sounds a bit sassy as she sings “here’s a hot top on your coffee, honey you’re a mess, I ain’t your wife, I ain’t your momma, but I’ll do I guess”.

#5

“It’s Not Gonna Happen Today”

from the 2007 album Sweet Danger

Kevin’s comment: “Bogguss co-wrote one of the strongest tracks on the album, the dark and despondent “It’s Not Gonna Happen Today.” It finds the narrator hiding out in her house on an autumn afternoon, with the leaves piling up outside. “I don’t really want to face all the things I’ve left undone,” she confesses. “At least a thousand things…maybe only one.” Suzy’s co-writers were Greg Barnhill and Doug Crider.

#4

“Night Rider’s Lament”

from the 1989 album Somewhere Between

There’s low pay and no advancement so why does this cowboy ride and rope for his living in this Michael Burton song? The end of the chorus provides the answer to the suggestion that “he must have gone crazy out there”:

But he’s never seen the Northern Lights
Never seen a hawk on the wing
He’s never seen Spring hit the Great Divide
And never heard Ol’ Camp Cookie sing.

Suzy’s yodeling at the end is awesome.

#3

“Something Up My Sleeve”

from the 1993 album Something Up My Sleeve

A duet with Billy Dean penned by Suzi Ragsdale and Verlon Thompson. The relationship isn’t working out for either party but neither one wants to leave. Suzy sings the first verse and Billy the second. In the third verse they alternate lines, Suzy then Billy responding. In the fourth verse, they again alternate, Billy with Suzy answering. They end together singing “I wish I had the power to make us both believe, I wish I had something up my sleeve.” Both contribute equally, a true duet, and their voices, Suzy’s soprano and Billy’s baritone, go so well together.

#2

“Hey Cinderella”

from the 1993 album Something Up My Sleeve

The fantasy of the first two verses turns into “dreams that lost their way” by the end of the third verse. The chorus begins “Hey Cinderella” and ends with the question “Does the shoe fit you now?” In the song’s second half, reality has totally set in. There’s talk of compromising and coming to terms with our vanity. Suzy co-wrote the song with Berg and Harrison.

#1

“Aces”

from the 1991 album Aces

Writer Cheryl Wheeler once explained that the song is about 3 persons. A and the singer, B, are former lovers. A introduces B to C and the latter two get together. A and C were also former lovers. B is singing to A who complained about B and C getting together. Hence, she sings “you can’t deal me the Aces and think I wouldn’t play.”

Since the lyrics do not mention this third party, C, another interpretation could be that of mentor and protege. The former trains the latter and makes her a star but never wants to relinquish control. (Porter and Dolly?) Lines like “you feel undermined and hurt again” and “compromise and realize you can never really run every thing you start” could fit this second scenario. This has been how I always interpreted the lyrics. Cheryl’s explanation can be found on her website.

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19 Comments

Filed under Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists

19 Responses to Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Suzy Bogguss

  1. It’s nice to read a FSBFA piece on Suzy. I’m in the process of digging into her catalog, having acquired a couple of her albums (including the new American Folk Songbook), and intending to get more. I love her voice. Every time I hear her, I’m reminded of that oft-repeated Chet Atkins quote about how her voice “sparkles like crystal water” – a very apt description.

    Right now the song I’ve been playing a lot is “Letting Go.” I have a sister who will be getting married soon, and even though the song deals with college instead of marriage, it still reflects a lot of the conflicting feelings many in the family are going through at this time. I’m thinking that just might be my favorite Suzy Bogguss song (though “Aces” would be high on the list also).

  2. Great list. I’m going to have to revisit some of these songs. The Chet Atkins quote is perfect. I can’t recommend her new album, American Folk Songbook, enough.

  3. travis in vaNo Gravatar

    I have always loved Aces but it is very confusing to follow. One of my favorites that is not on the list is Heartach! Oh and I almost forgot one of my all time favorite Christmas songs; Two Step Round The Christmas Tree!

  4. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    A really good overview of Suzy’s career. I think she is sort of under-appreciated by the country music world these days, and hardly ever gets played anymore on the radio–a typical state of affairs for a lot of female artists.

    Re. “Someday Soon”–you do know that, by Suzy’s own admission, she follows Judy Collins’ 1969 folk/country arrangement fairly closely.

  5. Love that Christmas song too, Travis. It would have totally made my Suzy Favorites list.:)

  6. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Not real familiar with Suzy’s catalogue but your article as well as some of Kevin’s reviews and his interview should help bring me up to speed in fine fashion. I’ve loved Suzy’s voice though, since I first heard her rendition of Someday Soon. And I do love Drive South, Cowboy’s Sweetheart and Aces especially.

    But I just purchased Suzy’s American Folk Songbook and I am hooked. I cannot stop listening to this, one of the finest albums I’ve heard in any genre for a few years now. My favorites from AFS are Erie Canal, Wildwood Flower, Rock Island Line, and Froggy’s Gone a Courtin’, (which contains some very funny lines, by the way). The companion songbook is a must as well, very well done.

    I grew up on Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Judy Collins, my Mom’s favorites. But I do not remember folk music featuring such rich acoustic, almost Appalachian instrumentation as can be found in Suzy’s songbook album. Add Suzy’s enchanting vocals to these timeless melodies and the results are nothing short of spellbinding. Grammy caliber stuff, for sure.

    Great stuff Bob, thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable piece!

  7. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Suzy was always one of my favorites – I think “Someday Soon is my favorite track but my favorite of her albums was the one she cut with Chet Atkins SIMPATICO – two of my favoite tracks from it were “In The Jailhouse Now” and “Sorry Seems To Be THe Hardest Word” , both in my top five of Suzy Bogguss tracks

  8. Steve, I’m with you on American Folk Songbook. She brings those, sometimes, stale songs to life. Songbook, Swing and Simpatico are definitely my favorite Bogguss albums.

  9. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Swing and Simpatico are on my list now :). I lent my copy of AFS to a friend and I am going through withdrawal. Hopefully he’ll be able to return it to me today if not sooner.

  10. Ha. I understand what you’re talking about regarding the withdrawals. After I bought the album I had to at least listen to one song from it every day for a couple weeks, because something from the album would get stuck in my head.

  11. Andrew LeprichNo Gravatar

    I’m embarrassed to admit that other than one or two of her hit singles, I’m not familiar with her work at all. This article gives me some great ideas where to start.

  12. bobNo Gravatar

    Appreciate all the good comments.

    @Eric North: I just played the Judy Collins version of Someday Soon yesterday for the first time in many years. I have her 1972 LP Colors of the Day, Best of Judy Collins. I can see the resemblance you mention. My favorite song on the Collins album however is “Sons Of” by Jacques Brel. It’s very relevant today.

    Re Simpatico, the year that album was released I saw Suzy, Chet & Mark O’Connor at Carnegie Hall, my only time there. Great show, great album.

  13. I can’t put into words how much I love Suzy Bogguss. Her voice is crystal clear and her catalog is one of best in early 90s female country singers. You can’t go wrong with any of her big hits – “Outbound Plane,” “Letting Go,” “Drive South,” “Hey Cinderella,” etc. I’m always in a good mood whenever I hear one of her songs.

    I think it was Kevin, but someone mentioned not too long ago that “Hey Cinderella” sounds like the adult version of all those fairytale-type Taylor Swift songs. You know, the reality once the young love has worn off after 20 or so years of being with the same person. Listening to the song through this perspective has given me a new appreciation for the track. Plus, you can’t go wrong with anything born from Matraca Berg’s pen. I kind of want to hear Taylor sing this song. It’s the direction I hope to see her music evolve in as she gets older. To me, it seems like a natural progression of where she is right now.

    And speaking of Matraca Berg, I noticed that Suzy has a co-writing credit on “Racing The Angels” from her new album The Dreaming Fields. It’s nice to see that relationship still going strong after all these years.

    I have to agree with Bob’s #1 pick – “Aces.” It’s without a doubt my favorite of her singles. I can’t get enough of that song, it’s perfection. The song is so well-written and she makes you feel her pain as the romance dissolves. I love the hook – “You can’t deal me the aces/and think I wouldn’t play/don’t let this be the reason you would walk away.” I miss the days when mainstream country music was this good.

    Suzy is one artist I’ve kept up with in the years since she fell out of favor with county radio, and while I’ve had trouble getting into Swing, I love both Sweet Danger and American Folk Songbook. “In Heaven” is right up there for me with “Aces” as one of her best recordings. I was saddened to see it rank so low on this list. I also really enjoy “The Bus Ride” from that CD as well. I like how it shows a different side to her.

    As for her new album, AFS, I finally got around to listening to it this week and have fallen in love. How could I not? It has to be the most delightful album I’ve heard in quite a long time. Listening to it always calms me and puts me in a good headspace.

    I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs she recorded, but it didn’t matter. She drew me right in. I really appreciate how simplistic she kept the production – not too loud and not too soft. And after her jazzy turn on her previous two releases, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how country it sounded. I wasn’t expecting all the dobro and mandolin. I was expecting more of a acoustic guitar filled sound. If every mainstream country album sounded like this, the genre would be in very good shape. Like everyone else, I can’t recommend the album enough.

    My favorite track from the project is “Banks of The Ohio.” It’s such a beautiful song and the kind I’ve always enjoyed most from Suzy. But I was instantly drawn to “Froggy” because of the unique production and the fact it can’t help but put a smile on your face when you hear it.

    The biggest takeaway for me from the project, though, was her voice. There were many songs where if I didn’t know it was her singing, I probably wouldn’t have guessed it was her. She seems to stretch herself so much vocally on this album do things with her voice I didn’t think possible. I guess I didn’t realize how much twang she has when she wants to sing in that style.

    Bob, thanks for spotlighting one of my favorite female singers of all-time. Suzy is one of a kind and I hope folks who aren’t familiar with her music will check her out after reading this feature. They’ve been missing out all these years.

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  15. Michael A.No Gravatar

    A very enjoyable read, Bob. You caught all of my favorites. Another I haven’t seen mentioned yet, but would likely be on my own list is the title track from 1996’s Give Me Some Wheels.

  16. DeniseNo Gravatar

    I have always been a big fan of Suzy and her strong, clear voice….Aces is one of my favorite songs.

  17. ThomasNo Gravatar

    Love your picks for songs by Suzy. I have always loved Someday Soon and Hey Cinderella. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is one of my favourites at Christmastime. I heard it on the radio a few years ago and searched high and low to discover who sung it. I was pleased to discover it was Suzy and I have since bought the Christmas album. It’s a great one! A new favourite of mine is Aces. I know I heard it when I was younger but I have recently fallen in love with the lyrics of the song. Since seeing this list, I have gone and revisited Suzy’s catalogue so thank you for that!!

  18. bobNo Gravatar

    Thanks Thomas. Suzy does have a great catalog. I recommend that you read Ben Foster’s review of her latest album, “American Folk Songbook”, on this website.

  19. Joey BegNo Gravatar

    I really love Suzy Bogguss. Thank God for this silky smooth voice. I really never understood why singers not nearly as talented as her get more air-play. I would have to include Love is Blind, her duet with T. Graham Brown and Cross My Broken Heart, probably my favorite. She’s all good!