Oh Susanna – [Album]

Monday, 16 May 2011

Looking for something light to listen to this morning? Something kind of upbeat, peppy, even?

If that's the case, Soon The Birds is not for you.

If, however, you find yourself hankering for some lonely country twang that you can drink whiskey to, then you just hit thirty-nine minutes of pay dirt with this album.

The sixth album by Canadian alt-country singer Suzie Ungerleider, Soon The Birds is a work in slow progression; the album moves in a sleepy, heavy way that drifts listeners along through eleven tracks as though floating along a river but, while the speed remains consistent, the songs can be broken up into two categories: heartbreakers and broken hearts. Track number one, “Drunk As A Sailor,” falls more into the latter category with a good measure of ‘screw you’ thrown in. The sweet acoustic guitars that open the song are accompanied by Ungerleider’s melodic voice, a combo that provides a sound akin to Allison Krauss and Union Station; folksy bluegrass, simple and clean, like fresh cotton sheets. This pastoral sound contrasts sharply with lyrics which cover topics like binge drinking and something of a gambling addiction however.

Look for this theme throughout the album; beautiful sleepy notes and a honeyed voice combined with heavy, jagged lyrics. Case in point: “Your Town.” The track starts clean with a few plunking acoustic guitar lines, but then opens the ballad with the lines “Shoot the puck against the wall in your town/ Then get fucked on alcohol in your town.” Ungerleider goes on to review this young man’s egregious run-in with some floozy from the next county over and the shame she causes him that leads him to become jaded and eventually abandon home for some unknown place. There's no arguing that the story is bleak but, underneath this tale of romantic woe, the acoustic guitars ring and cry with beauty and the percussion softly bounces to a country beat; it's a pretty attractive foil.
This is normally where I’d mention an upbeat track on the album, but honestly, there really isn't one.  “So Long” introduces a whining and waning fiddle to the mix as Ungerleider sends old lovers off with words full of steel and anguish, “Long Black Train” starts with a dark sounding riff (which, as is a rule in country, any song about a black train is either going to be a little depressing or evangelical) before the tale of a widow being left with a child is unwound and “Lucky Ones” features a couple ruminating on their lost love as an organ churns slowly in the background, reminiscent of a church that at one time encapsulated their love, and is now nothing more than background music.

So what listeners get on Soon The Birds is not terribly cheerful stuff, but what it is is soulful country music; slow and precise and somehow timeless in that. The measured use of every guitar riff and slide of the fiddle’s bow, every beat and note struck by Ungerleider, adds together to make a work of real passion and sublime beauty.
It’s not peppy, it’s not upbeat – but Soon The Birds is nothing if not stunning.



Oh Susanna – “Drunk As A Sailor” – Soon The Birds


Soon The Birds is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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