100 Greatest Women, #67: Suzy Bogguss

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

#67

Suzy Bogguss

2008 Edition: #65 (-2)

In the liner notes of her debut album, the legendary Chet Atkins wrote that “her voice sparkles like crystal water.” An apt description of Suzy Bogguss, indeed. Her pure and clear voice has always been a perfect fit for a wide range of material, whether she’s singing old Western songs or modern-day swing.

Bogguss was barely out of college when she started to follow her muse. With a group of friends, she spent the summer after her graduation criss-crossing the country with an amp and a guitar, going into random clubs and asking if she could play for the night in exchange for enough cash to cover expenses.

The novelty wore off quickly for her friends, who went back home when the summer was over, but Bogguss persevered. She recorded an LP to sell at her shows, and soon became a regular on the midwest coffeehouse circuit.

When she finally got up the gumption to move to Nashville, she put together a demo cassette. She got her big break when she landed a performance slot at a new theme park in 1986 – Dollywood. A label executive from Capitol Records caught her show, bought her cassette and offered her a contract.

One of her first singles was a cover of “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” which found the young singer bringing the yodel back to country radio, or at least to the small handful of stations that played it. When her next single “Somewhere Between” cracked the top 40, she was given the go ahead to record a full-length album of the same name. Strong critical acclaim followed, along with her first real hit, “Cross My Broken Heart.” In the spring of 1989, the ACM named her Top New Female Vocalist.

Her second album was a big setback, as Moment of Truth produced two low-charting singles and mediocre reviews. But she found her voice the next time out. After a duet with Lee Greenwood on “Hopelessly Yours” went to No. 12, her cover of “Someday Soon” matched that mark. That lead single from Aces helped launch her only platinum album to date, and after she scored top ten hits with “Outbound Plane” and “Aces,” she won the 1992 CMA Horizon Award, defeating a field that included Trisha Yearwood, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis and Billy Dean.

The label was in a rush to capitalize on that win, so she quickly recorded a follow-up album, Voices in the Wind. It was slapped together so quickly that they tacked on the fourth single from Aces, “Letting Go,” rather than launch with a new single. Still, that album went gold, thanks to the big hit “Drive South,” which remains her highest charting single to date.

Bogguss released one of her best albums, Something Up My Sleeve, in 1993. It showcased her writing more than previous efforts, and produced a pair of top ten singles. Of those two, “Hey Cinderella” became one of her signature songs. Her cover of “Take it to the Limit” on the Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles tribute album earned her another CMA award, as she shared the honor for Album of the Year.

After an interesting side project with Chet Atkins (Simpatico), she took two years off to begin raising a family. When she returned to the country market in 1996 with Give Me Some Wheels, the scene had changed and she had lost her slot at country radio. After another album with Capitol in 1998, she parted ways with the label.

As she switched to the independent scene, she took more liberties with her music. In 2003, she released on of her best-reviewed albums ever, Swing. Produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, the album was a top ten jazz hit. In recent years, Bogguss has been teaming up with Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters for what they call the “Wine, Women and Song” tour, playing to enthusiastic audiences across the United States and England. In 2007, her Sweet Danger project was also a jazz hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Top Jazz Albums chart.

Bogguss reached another critical peak with her 2011 release, American Folk Songbook, which featured fresh interpretations of folk standards.  She followed this with a tribute album to Merle Haggard, Lucky, that was endorsed by Haggard himself.  In 2016, she revisited her breakthrough album, Aces, on its 25th anniversary, releasing Aces Redux.  The album duplicated the original with acoustic-based recordings.

Essential Singles

  • Someday Soon, 1991
  • Outbound Plane, 1992
  • Aces, 1992
  • Letting Go, 1992
  • Drive South, 1992
  • Hey Cinderella, 1993

Essential Albums

  • Somewhere Between (1989)
  • Aces (1991)
  • Something Up My Sleeve (1993)
  • Swing (2003)
  • American Folk Songbook (2011)
  • Lucky (2014)

Industry Awards

  • Academy of Country Music Association
    • Top New Female Vocalist, 1989
  • Country Music Association
    • Album of the Year
      • Common Thread: The Songs of The Eagles, 1994
    • Horizon Award, 1992

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Next: #66. Dale Evans

Previous: #68. Patty Griffin

9 Comments

  1. I was looking at the 100 greatest women of 2008 this morning before commenting on Suzy B for the new list. I would have had her much higher then and now – and I wasn’t impressed by the material on her Lucky album. I would like to see her record an album of pop standards from the 30’s and 40’s. I’ve seen her do songs like “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” at her shows.

    On her current tour she has some dates with Pam Tillis and Terri Clark which she calls “Chicks with Hits”.

  2. I wasn’t impressed by the material on her Lucky album.

    Neither was I. It struck me as music one would drink White Zinfandel with instead of bourbon. My wife described it as Haggard done easy listening style, a description with which I fully concurred.

  3. I liked a lot of the arrangements on the Lucky album, especially “The Running Kind.”! I generally liked the album a lot, as far as Haggard cover albums go.

  4. Suzy is one of the best pure vocalists ever in country music. Aces and Something Up My Sleeve are great albums. I still love Aces and Hey Cinderella to this day.

  5. What I liked about Lucky was that it was a tribute to Haggard as a songwriter, not a singer, and Bogguss interpreted the songs through that lens. I think that it reinforced his legacy as a writer of immense talent, rather than just an extraordinary singer who could make any song sound great, whether he wrote it or not.

  6. Though I’d hoped to see her position rise by maybe a slot or two, I’m glad Suzy wasn’t dropped. She’s been one of my favorites ever since I first heard “Cross My Broken Heart” (although I sadly haven’t been able to locate any of her albums at used music stores here in Texas). I’ll be darned if she doesn’t have the most beautiful voice of any female in country music. (Yes, I’m aware of Connie Smith, but I haven’t heard anything of hers at this time.)

  7. Well, scrap what I said about being unable to find anything of hers in used music outlets. I just got a cutout CD of Give Me Some Wheels at a Half Price Books, and I intend to put the album in my music rotation for the forthcoming week. It better not disappoint!

    As for bob’s comment about wanting to see Suzy do a standards album? Well, she hadn’t released a normal album since 1999 (what we’ve gotten this century: Live album, two Christmas albums, swing album, jazz album, folk album, Merle Haggard tribute, re-recording of earlier album), so I’d say a standards album would be inevitable (that, and I think she’d sound incredible against a full orchestra, if one were to be employed for this project). Somebody should give her this idea!

  8. @Jman

    Appreciate the thoughtful comments! Just a heads-up that, for some reason, they’re getting caught by our filters, so we’re having to approve each one manually. So don’t worry if there’s a delay in seeing one post!

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