Suzy Bogguss will perform at the Highlands Performing Arts Center Friday, Sept. 2. For her new project, “American Folk Songbook,” Bogguss turns childhood memories into modern standards.
Bogguss had a revelation on stage with Garrison Keillor in 2008. Folk songs are the scrapbook of the American experience, but as music education fades from public schools, she worried; these beautiful melodies are in danger of being overlooked. She resolved to record these timeless songs in an updated but reverent way – so that everyone can sing along.
And who better than the golden throated Suzy? The platinum selling songstress already has a full bookshelf of Grammy and CMA awards and now with the release of “American Folk Songbook” she can put her own book up there too. The CD and companion Songbook was released on July 18, at all Cracker Barrel Country Stores followed by a wide release to other fine retail and digital outlets on Aug. 2.
As Bogguss writes in the introduction to the book: “Music has always been my purest joy even as a child. One of my favorite memories is my gradeschool music teacher pounding on the piano and leading the class in rousing renditions of folk songs from all around the world. In the summer of 2008, I toured with the brilliant and engaging Garrison Keillor. The energy that passed between the audience and Garrison was overwhelming at times. Several thousand people standing and singing together — old songs, hymns, the Beatles and the Everly Brothers. People of all ages, sharing music. Ahhh, pure joy.”
But Bogguss was not content to present the songs as dusty museum pieces, instead she chose to breathe new life into them with contemporary arrangements and a crack squad of Nashville’s acoustic A-Listers. Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Pat Bergeson, Charlie Chadwick and Jeff Taylor all join the band for Suzy’s self-produced project. Ultimately though it’s the voice that lovingly weaves through the guitars and mandolins to find the new in these old songs. As John Lomax III writes in the forward to the book, “Prepare yourself for enchantment! ...This work is, in a word, delightful!”
Bogguss says she modeled the songbook after her “good old 5th grade songbook.” The hardcover, 96-page book is filled with illustrations, fascinating historical stories about the songs, easy to read sheet music arrangements for piano, voice and guitar as well as personal insights and anecdotes from Bogguss. Her intent from the beginning was to make the book attractive to music lovers and musicians at every level. “That way, younger generations could share these slowly fading gems with their families and tell their stories of how they learned a few chords on the guitar or a couple of favorites to play at family gatherings,” she writes in the introduction.
“American Folk Songbook” is the natural progression of an artist who has demonstrated skill and passion for all types of music in her career. Songs like “Aces,” “Drive South,” “Someday Soon,” “Outbound Plane” and “Letting Go” took her to the top of the country music charts. Along the way she won raves from critics and peers including winning a GRAMMY in 2005 for Traditional Folk Album, the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award in 1992 and Album of the Year Award in 1994.
2007’s Billboard Jazz Chart topping “Sweet Danger,” the universally praised album, Swing recorded in 2003 with Ray Benson of “Asleep At The Wheel” and “Simpatico,” her beloved collaboration with Chet Atkins showed the world Bogguss was willing to both embrace tradition while continuing to grow and challenge herself as an artist. However, it is an appreciation for tradition that really shines through on “American Folk Songbook.” The album is filled with songs that are the very fabric of American musical history and Bogguss reclaims this history and revives it with a fresh and beautiful take on classics like “Shenandoah,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Ol' Dan Tucker,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.”