Oh Susanna Short Stories

Oh Susanna Short Stories
On her 2003 self-titled disc, Suzie Ungerleider added decidedly rock elements to her troubadour template to oft-bracing effect. She returns to her roots here by emphasising her voice and lyrics, and rises to the challenge with graceful ease. That voice really is a marvel, a haunting, expressive instrument that can proudly stand alongside those of Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch in the roots elite. Sparse and subtle accompaniment comes from her A-list players, including Luke Doucet, David Baxter, Blue Rodeo’s Bazil Donovan and Bob Packwood, Justin Rutledge (who harmonises beautifully on "Pretty Penny”) and drummer/hubby Cam Giroux. Strings are used judiciously and effectively on "Miss Liberty” and powerful closer "Filled With Gold.” Lyrically, Suzie presents a rich, colourful cast of characters, telling their stories with real empathy. There’s the "beauty queen strapped to a Coke machine” and the teenager who gave up her baby then ran off to "hang my heart on a hitching post where they got clean air to breathe” on "Greyhound Bus.” Even Billy The Kid makes an appearance, via her fine cover of Dylan’s "Billy 4.” This album stresses mood and narrative over melody to stunning effect.

With the last record, you said you felt like a singer in a band. This one seems more like a singer/songwriter record. Agree?
Completely. It was just the nature of the songs I wrote this time, where I had a quiet thing going on. With Oh Susanna, I thought it’d be fun to make more of a rock’n’roll record. Here, it was like, "I’m sick of those boys. I just want to be by myself,” and I was happy to do it that way.

Does the album title reflect the way you approach the songs?
I’m always attempting to make the songs like short stories. These ones in particular emphasise that, though I probably could’ve called every record I’ve made Short Stories. The title is a simple way of having someone pick it up and listen to it in that context.

This is clearly not a confessional style singer/songwriter record.
I feel like what I do has a confessional aspect to it, though it’s not necessarily me that is confessing. I find pretending I’m someone else that much more intriguing. I don’t think my life is all that worthy of writing into songs in a literal sense. If I were to write about my life, I’d still be manipulating it in such a way as to fictionalise it. (Stella/Outside)