Oh Susanna “Sleepy Little Sailor Deluxe Edition” (MVKA, 2020)

Oh Susanna is what happens when Vancouver foments a Massachusettes girl. Discovered in a bar in 1999 and flung into a steady drip of albums since then, Oh Susanna has turned back to her second album from 2001 to dig a little deeper. This “deluxe” re-release contains acoustic versions of six of the album tracks, which she has accompanied with music videos for the first time. The originals are hardly raucous noise fests, and the changes are as simple as telling the drummer and pedal steel player to stay home, but ironically, losing instruments is often an effective way of revealing more about a song.

Oh Susanna produces languid and heartfelt songs. A combination of piano, pedal steel, guitars and light snare drumming which is a well-worn dusty road. Oh Susanna, is Suzie Ungerleider who now resides just outside Toronto but at the time of writing lived in Vancouver. The original album was produced by Colin Cripps who also worked on three of the demos. In addition, award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Jim Bryson produced two of the newer acoustic versions. The album has a warm stillness, and is, as the title suggests, very sleepy. It is no surprise that Jim Bryson has worked with Kathleen Edwards, musically an undeniable parallel.

The acoustic rereleases are worth the time. Paring down already quiet songs might seem redundant, but these have almost the raw edge that is usually only found in demos. The most noticeable stylistic difference is in the two versions of ‘Kings Road‘. The original is a jangly, bluesy, swing-time, bar-room romp, and when the snare drum and the electric guitar are left at home what is left is a considered musical poem with heartfelt lyrics almost whispered: “I’ll still be waiting for the rest of my days”.

Oh Susanna has had six more albums since this album first came out and has been nominated and awarded well-deserved accolades in Canada for her contributions to music. This album may be a rehash of past songs, but this reworking brings enough joy and depth aurally than most original albums do the first time around.

Oh Susanna release a deluxe edition of a deluxe album
6/10

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