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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Soon The Birds is the sixth full-length album from Canadian act, Oh Susanna (Suzie Ungerleider) and such is the strength of the melodies to go with her songwriting I would venture to say it is one of her best recordings to date.
Ever since she debuted with Johnstown in 1999 she has kept a remarkable high standard of work, and when at her best there is a longing in her vocals the listener is repeatedly snared by it. As in the desperate album centre piece ‘By Rope’. That contains splendid mandolin, fiddle and mandocello to with not only her own vocals but harmony vocals of former Wailin’ Jennys act Ruth Moody and Brenley MacEachern. The small town dependency on drink as in ‘So Long’ and to a degree ‘Your Town’ and of doing wrong and on finding the pathway that best suits in this ol’ world makes for poignant listening. It is a roller-coaster ride Suzie takes in ‘Long Black Train’ and the title-cut ‘Soon The Birds’. That speaks poetically of migratory habits and of how she had it all, and though separated all is necessarily lost for in another year they will be reunited.
Supported by Cam Giroux, Basil Donovan, Burke Carroll, Kevin Breit, Burke Carroll and producer, David Travers-Smith among others, Oh Susanna sings about heartache and of how she learns to live with the shame on ‘Millions Of Rivers’. Like most all her songs it is of a melancholy nature but that matters none. Hence ‘Lucky Ones’ that has fellow Canadian act Jim Cuddy figure on harmony vocals the music and emotional content could not be better. If I were to compare Soon The Birds with her previous records I would venture to say the music and general content is a little less sombre, and easier to slot into as she eases back a little. This is not to say the album has some melancholy moments, it does as she ambles through the likes of ‘She What Promises Can Bring’ and the reflective, imagery spilled ‘Your Town’ plus the forlorn, beautifully constructed ‘By Rope’. That deals with the life and times of a train and stage coach robber. Western times revisited. A powerful story enriched in banjo, fiddle, mandocello and harmony vocals that speak of a hanging being the result of the desperate deeds done as a member of the Williams gang. This for me is Oh Susanna at her best as her rich strong tones produce a wondrous melody; whether she is pining for a loved one or speaking of an old folk tale she has few peers.
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