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When Oh Susanna first dreamed of making music, she wanted to create songs that would stand the test of time – just like the Stephen Foster classic from which she takes her name. With the release of her sixth album, SOON THE BIRDS, she has again achieved this dream with a collection of enduring songs that resonate deeper and deeper upon each listen. Her voice, always a marvel, is a haunting, expressive instrument that she uses to stunning effect on SOON THE BIRDS, a beautifully rendered album by an artist who has realized the full power of her voice as a narrative songwriter.
In a career spanning just over a decade, Oh Susanna has released five critically acclaimed records noted for their contemplative, thoughtful, folk-inspired songs that transport listeners into an imaginary emotional landscape. Whether applauding a young woman’s need to stand tall in the face of dire circumstances, expressing love and tenderness to a dying loved one or embodying the anger of a soldier’s widow, Oh Susanna’s songs aim straight for the gut. The timeless themes of love, loss and longing are expressed in soaring melodies and vivid lyrics. These songs beg careful listening.
“I like to take people into a dream world and make them reflect on what’s essential,” explains the singer-songwriter, “In this world, the idea of slowing down and looking inward is really important.”
“My songs often are about a crossroads in someone’s life, about someone facing a choice. I love when a song unwraps the layers of a person or situation and makes us look at all the facets and contradictions. We don’t always understand our own desires and motivations and I like songs that ask questions rather than give answers.”
She credits Juno Award winning producer David Travers-Smith (Jane Siberry, Wailin’ Jennys) with the album’s rich, layered sound. With a loose recording schedule, the pair were able to work on SOON THE BIRDS for more than a year, allowing for a more organic production process and room for experimentation. “It was the first time since JOHNSTOWN (Oh Susanna’s 1999 debut full-length album) that I had the luxury of time. Here we could change things. We could work slowly and get the right feeling and mood.”
The Oh Susanna/Travers-Smith collaboration yielded the integration of more than 30 musicians. The players, who read like a Who’s Who of the Canadian roots music scene, include Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), renowned guitarist Kevin Breit (Rosanne Cash, Norah Jones), vocalists Ruth Moody (Wailin’ Jennys) and Brenley McEachern (Madison Violet) and members of the Foggy Hogtown Boys. Handpicked to add their unique sounds to SOON THE BIRDS, these artists join longtime band members bassist Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo), guitarist Gord Tough (Kathleen Edwards) and drummer Cam Giroux (Weeping Tile, Ron Sexsmith).
A stand-out in terms of feeling and mood is Van Dyke Parks’ arrangement of Oh Susanna’s song 1941 (a bonus track available online). The legendary composer/producer (Beach Boys, Ry Cooder, Rufus Wainwright and Loudon Wainwright III) gives this ode to school friends lost to the Holocaust a truly cinematic orchestral treatment.
With SOON THE BIRDS Oh Susanna brings her breathtakingly effortless countrified alto into the foreground with a collection of haunting songs that shine light into the darker areas of the human experience.