Suzy Bogguss didn’t set out to craft a Merle Haggard tribute record. Some might call that serendipity; she just calls it Lucky.
“Merle Haggard is a hell of a storyteller,” says Suzy. “When I hear his songs, I feel like I’m listening in on someone’s life.” On her new album, Lucky, a collection of songs all written by Haggard, Suzy does more than just listen—the CMA, ACM and Grammy Award-winning singer makes the country rebel’s compositions her own, reinterpreting classics like “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Silver Wings” and “Today I Started Loving You Again” from a female point of view.
“Merle is one of the most masculine songwriters I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been watching boys cover his music for years. I just thought, ‘Why couldn’t a girl do this?’” Suzy says.
Turns out, a woman can—especially if that woman is Suzy Bogguss, one of country music’s most pristine and evocative vocalists. With the release of the Illinois native’s 1989 major label debut, Somewhere Between, Suzy quickly became one of the key artists that defined those golden days of ’90s country. She scored a string of Top 10 singles with country radio staples like “Outbound Plane,” “Drive South,” “Hey Cinderella,” “Letting Go” and “Aces,” and her 1991 album of that name was certified platinum. In addition, she scored a trio of gold albums and notched more than 3 million sales.
With Lucky, released on Suzy’s own label Loyal Dutchess, the singer comes full circle, returning yet again to her early inspiration, Haggard—Suzy’s Somewhere Between was titled after a Hag cut.
“My very first song on the radio, ‘Somewhere Between,’ was a Merle Haggard song,” says Suzy, going on to explain the title of Lucky, which she produced with her husband, songwriter Doug Crider. “I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and the word ‘lucky’ jumped out at me. I said, ‘That’s the title of the album.’ Because I feel lucky that I get to know Merle.”
Not that Lucky is a tribute album. Of that, Suzy is adamant.
“I don’t want it to be viewed that way. I had been wanting to make a record based in country and blues and I just kept thinking of great Haggard songs,” Suzy says. “Finally it just made sense to quit denying that what I really wanted was to sing an entire album of Merle songs! I have always looked to great singer/songwriters for material outside of my own. These songs are perfect for me at this time in my life. They just happen to all be written by one guy.
“I didn’t try to imitate Merle, this is my interpretation of his songs,” she continues. “Besides, Merle is still doing his own thing. He’s hard at work, and people are still lining up around the block to see him.”
Lucky is remarkable in its freshness. Its acoustic-based arrangements, while sparse, crackle with vibrancy. Each song is driven by the perfect marriage of Suzy’s delicate voice and the adventurous, yet tasteful, playing of the band. It’s indicative of what Haggard himself would do in the studio. “Merle would experiment. He would take his band The Strangers into the studio and they’d be pioneers,” Suzy says. “Each one of Merle’s records sounds fresh and you hear that in these different songs we chose. I really miss that fearlessness today.”
Suzy followed suit. Assembling her own ace band at her home studio—along with an A-team of singer-songwriters, including Jessi Alexander, Matraca Berg, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Joe Diffie, Gretchen Peters and Jon Randall Stewart, to lend background vocals—she cut a dozen Haggard tunes. They range from the boozy lament “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and the randy “Let’s Chase Each Other Round the Room” to the somber one-two punch of “You Don’t Have Very Far to Go” and “Someday When Things Are Good.”
“Merle’s songs were on the 8-track player in my dad’s car. Saturday nights when I would drive around with my friends, this was a part of our soundtrack. Back when country music talked about real adult problems and how we deal with them. We felt like we were eavesdropping on the secret lives of our parents,” Suzy says. “Merle’s songs feel familiar… and slightly dangerous. And there’s not a truck or a bonfire in the batch.
“These are the songs that I related to, that I felt I had a reason to sing,” she continues. “They all had something that I could give them, whether it was a particular passion to a lyric or a melody. Every melody on this whole project is one that I just love as a singer.”
Throughout Lucky, Suzy’s bohemian spirit—for nearly five years, she lived in and traveled the country by camper—is palpable. In “Silver Wings,” she delivers an almost cinematic vocal. “There’s a movie playing in my head when I sing that song,” Suzy admits. “And in many of his songs.”
To further the metaphor, it’s a movie written by Haggard, but directed by Suzy. One of her goals with the album was to show fans of American music exactly what Merle wrote. “These are meaty melodies, meaty stories,” she says of the songs. “I love sinking my teeth into them.”
And she hopes both her fans who have followed her since the ’90s as well as devotees of Haggard will do likewise.
“What I really wanted to illuminate is not only is this guy awesome to see live and awesome to listen to on his records, but his songs are very relatable for somebody else to communicate to other people,” Suzy says. “Not every artist has music that is as universal as Merle’s. It’s pretty heavy-duty stuff and I think that’s why to so many of us who sing and write songs, he’s such a king among us.
“He really is the poet of the common man.” Or in this case, an extraordinary woman.
In the short time since her graduation from Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, singer-songwriter Liz Longley has assembled an impressive resume. While best known for her stop-you-in-your-tracks voice, Liz has steadily developed a reputation as an accomplished songwriter, crafting intimately personal portraits through her music.
In the past two years, Liz has taken home top prizes at some of the most prestigious songwriting competitions in the country, including the BMI John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship Competition, the International Acoustic Music Awards and the Rocky Mountain Folk Fest Songwriting Competition. New England named her the 2011 Female Performer of the Year, the Washington Post declared that Liz is “destined for a larger audience” and Dig Boston called her “a rising acoustic sensation.” Even John Mayer is a fan, calling her music “gorgeous, simply gorgeous.”
A Philadelphia native, Liz recently made the move to Nashville, Tennessee where she has quickly made her presence known throughout Music City. In addition to writing more than forty songs with some of the best songwriters in the business, Liz has also managed to keep up her seemingly never-ending touring schedule, playing over one hundred shows in the last year – all without the help of a record label or booking agent.
While Liz frequently supports the likes of Shawn Colvin, Amos Lee, Paula Cole, Nanci Griffith, Livingston Taylor, Lori McKenna and Colin Hay, something remarkable has begun to happen – audiences are emerging from these shows as fast fans of Liz’s music as well. An engaging performer with an effortless stage presence, Liz has broken advance ticket and merchandise sales records at numerous venues across the country.
Most recently, Liz’s music has taken center stage on a national level with numerous television placements and radio airplay. ABC’s critically acclaimed series NY Med featured Liz’s music throughout the first season, and the 2012 season finale of Lifetime’s Army Wives displayed her towering vocals in an epic grand finale song, “This Is Not the End.” Executives at SiriusXM caught wind of her captivating cover of Van Morrison’s hit “Moondance” and added it into regular rotation, along with her award-winning original song, “When You’ve Got Trouble.” After an impressive response from listeners, Liz was invited to perform live in the SiriusXM studios in New York City and was named one of their Coffee House Discoveries of 2011.
Following the success of her previous release, Hot Loose Wire, and an impressive crowdfunding campaign this past summer, Liz recently returned to the studio where she recorded her fourth full-length album which is scheduled to be released this spring.
Sam Outlaw is a country singer living in Los Angeles.
He was born in South Dakota and his mother’s maiden name is Outlaw.
Sam writes original songs that seek to capture the spirit of the classic country music he learned from his favorite singers: George Jones, Willie Nelson, Gene Watson, Emmylou Harris, Don Williams, Keith Whitley, George Strait, etc.
He’s just released his debut album “Nobody Loves”, produced by Kelly Winrich (Delta Spirit).
EMI recording artist Angie Aparo is the songwriting talent behind such big hits as Faith Hill’s recording of ‘Cry.’ A highly respected and accomplished singer and performer himself, Angie has appeared on stage and recordings with Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Edwin McCain, Matchbox20, and the Zac Brown Band to name but a few. Emotional Traffic, Tim McGraw’s much anticipated studio album debuted January 31, 2012 on Billboard’s Country Album chart at #1, featuring the songs ‘The One’ and ‘Only Human,’ co-written by Angie.
Signed by Clive Davis to Arista Records, the Atlanta-based singer/songwriter released his first major label record, The American, produced by Grammy-winning producer Matt Serletic, in 1999. The album included ‘Cry’ a song that was later recorded as title track of a hit album by singer Faith Hill. Hill went on to win a Grammy for her performance of ‘Cry.’ Hill’s husband Tim McGraw then recorded Aparo’s ‘Free Man’ from The American for the soundtrack album for HBO’s documentary about the election of Barack Obama.
Aparo first began playing the Southeast with his acoustic guitar in hand. He released his first solo album Out of the Everywhere in 1996, recorded at David Briggs Studio in Nashville, Tennessee with Jim Stabile as engineer and David Briggs at the piano. This was followed by The American, his label debut for Arista Records.
Citing the familiar phrase “creative differences,” Angie parted ways with his label and released Weapon of Mass Construction in 2001 (later re-released under the title One With the Sun). A collection of cover songs taken from varying artists from Beastie Boys to Neil Young and Elton John, as well as two previously unreleased originals, Angie is quoted as saying “I had been playing these cover songs “unplugged” in clubs and thought it would interesting to record those arrangements.”
Following in 2003 was For Stars and Moon, an album heavily influenced by the Beatles. Angie then released the live album 9Live in 2004, a recording from a performance for Atlanta radio station 99X featuring many songs from The American.
Angie’s music started moving in a new direction first apparent on El Primero Del Tres (Spanish for “The First of the Three”) recorded with producer Dann Huff. He continued moving forward stylistically with his most recent release Praise Be.
For 2014, Angie has a new solo album in the works, a duet project with Charleston songstress McKenzie Eddy, a cartoon and TV show in development, and is currently writing material for Tim McGraw’s next release.
Amythyst Kiah is a Southern Roots/Alt-Country blues musician originally from Chattanooga, TN. She has found a way to fuse traditional roots music with a contemporary style that makes for powerful original songs, and transforms traditional songs into powerful, soulful renditions. She draws heavily on Old Time music (Mississippi Sheiks, Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, Skillet Lickers, Jimmie Rogders), and is inspired by vocal stylings of R&B and Country music from the ’50s-’70s (Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn). She also draws from contemporary popular artists that have similar powerful vocal integrity (Adele, Florence and the Machine, Janelle Monae, Joss Stone). Needless to say, Amythyst has got a lot of tools in her vocal tool box, and is also well on her way to joining the powerhouse vocalist pantheon.
Recently, she performed on Mountain Stage and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City as a singer and guitarist for the East Tennessee Old Time Pride Band, opened solo for Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, and she performed at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival 2012 alongside the Ebony Hillbillies and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.
Her new album, Dig, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.