Suzy Bogguss - Give Me Some Wheels/Nobody Love, Nobody Gets Hurt

Morello MRLL22

Suzy Bogguss is probably one of the most underrated female vocalists of the past 30-odd years. Her crystal clear voice, interpretative powers and songwriting skills tend to be taken for granted, but this pair of albums, originally released on Capitol in 1996 and 1998 respectively, demonstrate the full power and range of her sublime voice on a wide range of quality songs. GIVE ME SOME WHEELS was released shortly after Suzy gave birth to son, Ben. People who expected a mellow album of reflective songs from a new mother were surprised and taken aback at the energy and exuberance found in the songs on the album. Give Me Some Wheels, co-written by Suzy, Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison, was the first song selected for the album and it set the tone and direction the album was going to take. A positive woman’s song, it’s all about starting your engine and going. That powerful stance was maintained in songs like No Way Out and the country-esque Traveling Light, but there’s also softer, more reflective songs to be found here. The piano-led Saying Goodbye To A Friend is a song that should resonate with everyone who’s lost someone close. The swirling strings and pedal steel really enhance Suzy’s emotional vocal. She Said, He Heard, a co-write by Suzy and Don Schlitz is one of the best songs you’ll ever hear on the comprehension chasm between men and women.

The album sold little more than 50,000 copies when released, which for an artist of Suzy’s stature was a major career setback. In the aftermath, Suzy and Capitol-Nashville were looking to change that with 1998’s NOBODY LOVE, NOBODY GETS HURT. Co-produced by Suzy and her husband Doug Crider, the album was her strongest work up to that time. The album’s writers include Bogguss, Crider, Skip Ewing, Matraca Berg, Stephony Smith, Julie Miller, Tony Arata, Kim Richey, Cheryl Wheeler and Bobbie Cryner. The title song was a clever treatise on the frailty of humanity encapsulated in an emotional tale of a botched convenience-store robbery. It should have found a more enthusiastic audience but, unfortunately it didn’t, reaching a lowly 63 on the country charts. Though there are some great up-tempo numbers here like opening Just Enough Rope and From Where I Stand, it’s the slower ballads that lift this album into the classic category. Skip Ewing’s When I Run, is a heartbreaking country tune with Dan Dugmore’s pedal steel weaving sad tones behind Suzy’s heartfelt vocal. The reflective Family Tree also features Dugmore very much to the fore, but the killer track is Suzy’s rendition of Cheryl Wheeler’s Moonlight And Roses. Matt Rollings’ piano sets the mood, then Dugmore’s pedal steel adds to the pathos enhanced by Alison Krauss’ delicate viola. Julie Miller’s Take Me Back is pure traditional country with Hank Singer’s fiddle, Darrell Scott’s mandolin and the mountain-styled vocal harmonies.

A lack of radio plays and poor sales led to Suzy’s contract with Capitol Records not being renewed. But at least she left the label with her head held high as her final pair of albums for a major label were artistically of a very high standard and her integrity was very much intact. It set her up to follow her own muse, unrestricted by mainstream radio play, and in the ensuing 15 years she has released an incredibly varied repertoire of musical styles from jazz and swing to folk and country.