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Bogguss, in 2008 when on tour with Garrison Keillor had a revelation in that one night on stage it struck her that everyone loves to ‘Red River Valley’ except, the children who don’t know the song. Her observation startled her into wanting to help correct something that the American educational system no longer supplied and put out not only this album but a Companion 96 Page songbook. For it was as a child at school she was introduced to the songs lovingly performed on this album; a scrapbook of the Americana experience is a term accredited to what lies within the context of the seventeen traditional folk songs that make up this labour of love. Nashville’s Suzy Bogguss during the late 1980s and 1990s racked up slew of country hits and an award or two as she saw off the best and has lost non of her appeal to music lovers.
Joined by Nashville ace pickers Pat Bergeson (guitar, harmonica, Jews harp) Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle, mandolin), Charlie Chadwick (bass, cello), Richard Bailey (banjo), Harry Stinson (snare drum) plus additional slots from John McCutcheon (hammer Dulcimer), Paul Kramer (mandolin on ‘Red River Valley’) and Doug Crider (guitar solo on ‘Erie Canal’) Bogguss is helped big style.
With Suzy in great voice she slips through the standards in wonderful fashion, excelling on most all of them. Unlike some people she has not stripped her music down to that of rustic, front porch style of music but warmed the material so that it appeals to more than the die-hard. This she does without the songs losing their purity.
Especially pleasing are her versions of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, ‘Banks Of The Ohio’, a bright and breezy dobro, fiddle, guitar and Jews harp aided ‘Froggy Went A-Courtin’ and the song that prompted her to assemble the songs in the first place, the wonderful lazy paced ‘Red River Valley’. That has some splendid mandolin, acoustic guitar, harmonica and sweet harmony vocals (Matraca Berg, Gretchen Peters, Crider, Stinson and Gerald Boyd) support her finely toned vocals. ‘Erie Canal’ joins the much-recorded ‘Wildwood Flower’ made famous by the Carter Family and the tender ballads, ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Beautiful Dreamer’. That she closes the album with. Not my favourite piece or choice by any stretch of the imagination to do so. I would rather she closed on a heady high as in a sublime version, dare anyone to try and beat it ‘Wayfaring Stranger’. Oh, how the boys perform, it sounds like you were right there in the studio sat listening to them!
In short this is the album I have waited over twenty years for her to make and I imagine there are many others to who will be enchanted by the glorious offering. A treasure for sure, and what better way for the next generation to learn these classic than listen to Suzy sing them.
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