Suzy Bogguss at Rod n Reel
by Gary Pendleton
Chet Atkins described Suzy Bogguss this way: Her voice sparkles like crystal water; she is only one of the best. The late guitarist, producer and country music icon was not the only person smitten by Bogguss talent. Starting with her first album, Somewhere Between in 1989, Bogguss has walked the line between commercial and critical success. Along the way, she scored a string of hit songs as well as good reviews.
Suzy Bogguss brings her clear and supple voice to the Rod n Reel On Stage Room for a pair of holiday shows December 11. In addition to performing many of the hit songs she made during her 12 year stint with Capital Records, she showcases music from two new CDs on her new label, Compadre. Her latest record, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, follows the critically acclaimed Swing last summer.
With a series of affordably priced national acts such as Bogguss, Rod n Reel hopes to revive the tradition of quality musical entertainment in the resort town. Professional sound and lighting consultants have readied the hall, and concert-goers sit at tables with beverage and food service. Shows in the works include Patty Loveless and Roy Clark.
Bogguss Christmas repertoire includes a reworking of the jazz standard Mr. Sandman, done as Mr. Santa. She performs a hoe-down styled Two Step Round the Christmas Tree that is a fixture of her yearly Nashville Christmas shows. The record features a delicious duet with Delbert McClinton on Baby Its Cold Outside.
It was almost embarrassing to sing with him because he is just so hot, I felt like I was in the same position as the girl in the song with him coming on to me. He was making me blush, Bogguss told Bay Weekly.
For Bogguss, the move to a smaller record label might also signal a new musical direction. It got to the point where it seemed like I was making the same record over again and again, she said. For a while there when I started to make a record, I was looking for material that wasnt really Suzy Bogguss but what she had become as a performer.
On Swing, her first on the independent label Compadre, she selected a handful of classic songs that reveal some early influences.
Ive been a Nat King Cole fan since I was a little girl, and I have always loved Ella Fitzgerald too, said Bogguss.
In addition to standards such as Coles Straighten Up and Fly Right and the Ellington number Do Nothing till You Hear From Me, Swing features a surprising crop of songs by contemporary writers.
Bass player David Hungate, who worked on the Christmas record, advised Bogguss she couldnt do swing music without hearing April Barrows.
So I went to hear her sing and I thought, Wow this is just what I have been looking for. Barrows contributed four songs including the smart and funny Burning the Toast.
Bogguss seems to have been sitting on an untapped supply of classy songwriters. Her guitarist, Paul Kramer brought her Piccadilly Circus and Its All About You.
The idea for the CD that became Swing was to have Bogguss playing with the Western Swing band Asleep at the Wheel. Ray Benson, who plays guitar and is the bands lead singer, is the CDs producer. But before Bogguss got into the studio, she was collecting material she wanted to do.
Rays reaction was, Suzy this isnt exactly Western Swing. It is more like jazz. Well to me, it had the fiddle so it is sort of Western, and it swings, Bogguss said.
One thing Bogguss wanted on the new record was a little space. Most of the records coming out of Nashville now are so jam-packed with instruments, that there is no space for the musicians to have fun and listen to each other. If they try to do anything they have to be so careful that there are not stepping on someone else, she explained.
The relatively spare arrangements on Swing give Bogguss plenty of room to breathe.
Bogguss has invited local swing fiddler Bill Marquess to sit in for a song: 7 & 9pm Dec. 11 @ Rod n Reel Restaurant, Chesapeake Beach. $29.50; rsvp: 410/257-2735 www.rodnreelinc.com.