‘Some of the things that I did early on . . .‘ She laughs and tails off down the transatlantic phone line, unwilling to dredge up the memory ofgigs behind chicken-wire protective grilles or double bookings with Gonzo The Dwarf-Juggling Big Guy. Or something. The rigours. though. gave her vigour. and ‘now I can do anything — no matter how tired I get or no matter what other things come up, at least I don‘t have to drive rnyselfany more or put up my own PAs.‘
Suzy Bogguss is a 36-year-old native of Aledo. Illinois. in the back ofthe back of beyond. Tonight she‘s playing Denver. the start of a few headline dates before coming over to Britain — her most concerted effort yet at cultivating the UK market (she was over here in I989 for one of those comball country festivals at Wembley). Her arrival comes ﬂagged by a professional recommendation from the Country Music Association in America. which awarded her its I992 Horizon Award for best newcomer (even though she‘d released four albums). and a personal recommendation from Nanci Grifﬁth. who took time at her concert at Edinburgh Castle at the start of the month to encourage everyone to listen out for Bogguss.
Like Grifﬁth. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lucinda Williams. Bogguss marries traditional country MORness
with a more pointed lyrical content. Her sources are the realities and traumas of everyday life rather than the dewey-eyed sentimental sop that is country music‘s eternal motherlode. Keeping this grip on what‘s what is all the harder given the tradition of near- constant touring which fuels country rnusic‘s continued eminence in America. Prior to these dates. for example, Bogguss turned in an 80-date tour with Dwight Yoakam. She had two days off in between.
‘I absolutely need the time at home so that I can restock and be a normal person for a while.‘ she says. ‘so that I can write songs about the things that normal people do. When you‘re touring you‘re sort of locked away and isolated from normal life.‘
So Bogguss stocks up for the winter. taking time off to focus and plot and further explore her own songwriting skills. ‘Wn'ting came slower to me than to others.‘ she reckons. admitting that she‘s a ‘very picky artist‘. Her early records. l989's Somewhere Between and l990's Moment Of Truth. emphasised other people‘s songs and production. But with l99l ‘s Ares (her ﬁrst album to be released in the UK too) Bogguss became co-producer. The album yielded four top twenty singles in the US country chart. Her cover of Nanci Griffith and Tom Russell‘s ‘Outbound Plane‘ became her first top ten hit. Nashville. still the be all and end all for the more traditional country artist. sat up and took notice.
Her sources are the realities and traumas of everyday life rather than the dewey-eyed sentimental sop that is country music’s eternal motherlode.
‘For me. it wasn‘t so much that you had to go to Nashville to get into the circuitry of it. It was more that ofthe music centres in the States - New York. L.A., Nashville — Nashville is more my lifestyle. I grew up in a rural community in Illinois. it‘s very laid back. and much more small townish. that‘s just more like me. I was more comfortable there.‘
Now comes Suzy Bogguss‘ fifth album. Something Up My Sleeve. as meticulous and well-crafted a record as you‘d expect of someone with a thriving sideline in intricate clothes and jewellery design. Aside frorn opening up a second commercial side for art- graduate Bogguss — her designs are marketed in chain stores across the States — the metalwork inspires the songwork.
‘The art side of me, that part that designs the coats and the jewellery. when l‘rn working on something like that it frees my mind up to thinking about music. Working with metal is a very tedious process. so your mind can dn'ft — getting into something manipulatory like that. sometimes l come up with the best songs!‘
Suzy Bogguss plays the Mitchell Theatre. Glasgow on Mon 20.
Bass master Danny Thompson has been around a fair while now, and his own musical output is just about as impressively eclectic as you are likely to find. Danny has dabbled with a few record companies over the years, but has finally grown so fed up with the commercial dictates which now determine recording policy that he has opted to launch his own label.
The Jazz label will aim, he says, to put out about a dozen albums over the next two years. Each release will have a specially commissioned cover painting to appeal to the collector in us, and the music will vary widely.
‘Travelling around the country over the years I’ve come across ever so many really good musicians who deserve to be heard, but the existing record companies don’t want to know about them, so I decided it was time to do sdmething myself. Despite the name, the label will not be limited to any particular style of music, or to any single generation of musicians. What I want to do is establish a recording outlet for the widest cross-section of British improvised music.’
The initial batch of three releases will be out in late September, and feature a disc (the label will issue only digitally recorded CDs) from film music composer Colin Towns’s Mask Orchestra, another from guitarist John Etheridge, who left Danny’s own Whatever band after the bass player had ‘a bit of a ruck’ with him, and one
Danny Thompson from a band led by the man who
replaced Etherldge, Welsh guitarist Dylan Fowler’s ian-fusion outfit Frevo. The second batch of releases will follow later in the year, and feature music by guitarist Gary Boyle, alto saxophonist Martin Speake, and the John Stevens Duartet. It remains to be seen whether this is destined to be another well-intentioned but financially foolhardy venture, but whatever the outcome, it is good to see a musician of Thompson’s standing ready to take the chance. In his case, though, it comes as no surprise; taking chances has always been part of his make up. (Kenny Mathieson) The Jazz Label will release Ash by the John Etheridge Quartet, Mask Orchestra by Colin Towns, and Frevo at the end of September.
nm— . Trust In muSIG y... Vi ‘
That crucial musical milestone, the first album, has been a longer time coming for Glasgow’s The Pearlfishers than for most up-and-coming bands. ‘l’ve had a lot of false starts,’ explains lead vocalist, songwriter and all-round main man David Scott. ‘l’ve already had two major record deals in my career, and they both got to the stage of releasing the first album, then either technical problems or personality things or just downright bad luck got in the way.’ On reflection, however, he feels that this stop-start progress may have been no bad thing. ‘l’m a better songwriter for it, I think - I’m a bit older, and I’ve had some bad experiences now to draw on as well as good ones. Most of the songwriters I like have had a lot of trouble in their lives, which has influenced their work,
but I’ve had a really happy life, and I used to worry that l was too comfortable a person to write really good songs. But now I think these problems with the record-deals and so on have given me a wee bit of insight, added a bit of bite to my writing.’
The album, ‘Za Za’s Garden’, is a substantial and satisfyineg broad- based piece of work, recognisany within the West Coast pop-rock tradition of well-crafted songs and acoustically-textured melodic muscle, but encompassing a wide range of stylistic elements including soul, gospel, folk and blues. ‘The kind of music I was first inspired by was always very broad,’ says Scott. ‘I remember reading reviews saying things like, “this would be great if it wasn’t so eclectic” and drinking, ‘no, it’s great because it’s so eclectic’ - I’m a great fan of the idea that you can draw on a whole spectrum of different stuff. The basic thing that guides me is to do with a quote I remember from Brian Wilson - he was talking about the “honesty of music”, where you can “trust” a record. I thought that was an amazingly perceptive thing to say, but I think anyone who grew up loving music knows exactly what he means - sometimes when you’re thirteen, fourteen, the only things you can trust are your records. I hope that’s the sort of music we make, that kind of warm sound that you can trust; that’s basically my angle on everything.’ (Sue Wilson) la Za’s Garden is on the Iona Gold label.
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The List 10—53 September 1993 29