Suzy Bogguss is not one of the names usually associated with the “Class of ’89″, as it was another couple of years before she really broke through commercially, but her debut album Somewhere Between was one of my personal favorite releases of 1989.
The best adjective I can find to describe Suzy’s voice is pure – it is sweet without ever sounding saccharine. Further, she knows how to convey convincing emotion without overacting. In the liner notes to that debut, the legendary Chet Atkins is quoted raving about Suzy, and he says “her voice sparkles like crystal water”. They were later to collaborate on an album together.
One of the things that really distinguishes this album is Suzy’s penchant for western songs and yodeling. Her delightful cover of Patsy Montana’s ‘I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart’ (which sold a million records in the 1930s) must be the most unlikely revival of the period, and was actually the first single released from the album. Unfortunately, even though the neotraditional movement was in full swing in 1989, this was just a little too retro for radio. Suzy also yodels tastefully on the final track, the wistful cowboy song ‘Night Rider’s Lament’, a song with a theme similar to ‘Someday Soon’, which was a hit for Suzy a few years later, once radio had accepted her. ‘Night Rider’s Lament’ itself was later recorded by Garth Brooks. Suzy and her husband Doug Crider co-wrote the charmingly old-fashioned mid-tempo ‘I’m At Home On The Range’ with Verlon Thompson, as Suzy extols the life of an itinerant singer traveling among the cowboys, roughnecks and loggers, singing at small bars, ‘from Billings down to Laramie the cowboys take good care of me‘. This is autobiographical, as before she got her record deal, Suzy had traveled all over the country performing, accompanied only by her dog and cat.
Surprisingly, three of the four singles released from Somewhere Between were covers, even though there were some good new songs on the album. This may say something about the direction the label was trying. The title track is a beautiful interpretation of one of Merle Haggard’s lesser-known songs, a sad waltz about a troubled relationship, which is possibly the best track on this very fine album, and really should be better known. The other choice was Hank Williams’ ‘My Sweet Love Ain’t Around’, which has a high lonesome feel. Sadly, neither of these superb traditional-sounding recordings made the least chart impact, although they were marginally more successful than ‘I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart’. Read more of this post