Tag Archives: Suzy Bogguss

The Beauty of Susan Boyle

susan-boyleI was going to connect this somehow to country music, perhaps by discussing K.T. Oslin’s sudden stardom at age 45, or seeing award show winners like Cal Smith or Suzy Bogguss completely stunned and humbled by the recognition of their talent.

But I’m really just sharing this because it made me smile broadly and think of the world as a better, brighter place.

Watch: Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent

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100 Greatest Women, #65: Suzy Bogguss

100 Greatest Women

#65

Suzy Bogguss

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 s 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.

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Suzy Bogguss, Sweet Danger

Suzy Bogguss
Sweet Danger

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Four years after exploring Western swing on the appropriately titled Swing, Suzy Bogguss delves into contemporary jazz on her latest independent release, Sweet Danger, and once again, the title fits. While the musical arrangements are unfailingly sweet throughout the album, the lyrics enter some dangerous emotional territory. The result is a record that lulls you into complacency, then pulls the rug out from under you with its starkly confessional lyrics.

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A Conversation With Suzy Bogguss

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to talk with award-winning singer-songwriter Suzy Bogguss, who has a new album being released on September 4. Sweet Danger is a jazz-flavored project that showcases her trademark vocals in a brand new setting. As with my earlier interview with Pam Tillis, what starts off as a formal interview becomes more of a conversation about her music, in addition to some fantastic anecdotes along the way about everything from working with Chet Atkins to a special favor done by Kathy Mattea on her behalf…on the South Lawn of the White House!

Look for a review of Sweet Danger as the release date nears. You can stream the entire album at her website now.

A Conversation with Suzy Bogguss

I thought it was cool that the name of the album was Sweet Danger, because the music is very sweet and laid-back, but you go into some dangerous emotional territory on a few of the songs.
That’s exactly what I was hoping people would read into it. That’s great!

Let’s start off with the first single, “In Heaven,” which was written by your husband, Doug Crider. It was inspired by some friends of yours?
My best friend and her husband. It’s a long and hard story, but my friend had cancer and fought it for fifteen years. Her husband was really great through the whole process, absolutely amazing. They had a child in the middle of it and everything. When my friend, who was my roommate in college, passed away, Doug and I were talking about how we were really hoping some good things would happen for our friend, Gary. He had just been a champion through all of it, and he deserved some happiness in life. So that song came out Doug. He said he just sat down and it fell out. It was one of those inspired moments from something personal that happened.

Your performance of it is beautiful. A lot of the female singers today go for the power notes, and you have that clear quality to your voice which can convey the emotion without having to oversing.
You know, it wasn’t always that way. There was a point where I felt like I really was trying to compete with that just because that’s what was going on on the radio, and it really is not my gift. [Laughs] Some of the gals really have the gift of just being able to belt, and it’s not what I was given. I was given more of a clear voice. I’d be in live concerts and my voice would break, and I’d think, “Maybe I need to be concentrating on melodies that are more adapted to my voice.” In writing a lot of the songs, of course, you have a lot of control that way.

One thing that may surprise a lot of people is that you are a distinguished songwriter. The top song you have on iTunes is “Hey Cinderella,” which you wrote.
Really? I did not realize that!

You wrote that with Matraca Berg, right?
And Gary Harrison, yes.

You recently did the “Wine, Women and Song” tour over in England with her and Gretchen Peters.
That was just incredible. We’re going to have to do some here in the States because we had such a great time. Those two have written so many beautiful songs, and it was an awesome thing to be backing their vocals. It was just the three of us with the three guitars, and it was magical. U.K. audiences, they know every little detail about you and your songs. It really is a very personal experience getting over there and doing that. Of course, all of us being friends for so many years, it was pretty neat.

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Essential Viewing: Women of Country Special

CBS has a tendency to pull clips from this show down as soon as they’re up, so I highly recommend watching it now: the 1993 Women of Country documentary. It traces the history of women in country from the early days all the way through 1992. When it first aired, it was my crash course in the history of the genre, along with a celebration featuring female artists that all rank among my favorites.

The live performances are fantastic. Nearly every major female artist of that time performs: Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker. Michelle Wright, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood. There are also performances from legends Emmylou Harris and Tammy Wynette, and an all-star finale.

However, the real reason to watch is to see the story of women in country music told by those who lived it, including some who are no longer with us today, like Wynette, June Carter Cash, Rose Maddox, Patsy Montana. The vintage clips of Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline and others are priceless.

For me, the most powerful moment is Jeannie C. Riley’s heartbreaking story of the beautiful layered dress that she had bought to wear to the 1968 CMA awards, where she would win Single of the Year for “Harper Valley P.T.A.” When she went to pick up her dress, it had been butchered into a miniskirt at the direction of her producer. Even 25 years later, she still remembers the humiliation. It’s really the perfect metaphor for how women had no control over their careers through most of the genre’s history. That’s in Part 10, at the 1:50 mark.

Here’s a list of all the videos. If you’re at all interested in country music’s past, it’s essential viewing.

Part 1: Introduction; performance of by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Part 2: Spirit of the Mountains; performance by Emmylou Harris.

Part 3: Heartsongs; performance by Trisha Yearwood.

Part 4: Cowgirls in a Man’s World; performance by Suzy Bogguss.

Part 5: Honky Tonk Angels; performance by Pam Tillis.

Part 6: Rockabilly; performance by Tanya Tucker.

Part 7: The Nashville Sound; performance by Lorrie Morgan.

Part 8: The Folk Revival; performance by Kathy Mattea.

Part 9: Heroines; performance by Tammy Wynette.

Part 10: Women Ascending; performance by Michelle Wright.

Part 11: New Country; performance by Patty Loveless.

Part 12: 80’s Ladies; performance by Wynonna.

Part 13: The Future: all-star finale.

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