Suzanne Vega – Lover Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers
Release date, 14 October 2016
This is literally a literate, and literary album (and you thought it was a tongue twister?! Lol!).
Seriously, Suzanne Vega has a degree in literature and the ability to intrigue with her song stories which is no more evident than on this latest release, her tribute to Carson McCullers, an author who always inspired her, and who was plagued throughout her relatively short life by physical and other challenges (she wrote, among other works, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter).
In 2011, Vega and Duncan Sheik premiered a play that they wrote and performed together named Carson McCullers Talks About Love in which Vega alternated between music and monologue. This album is based on that production. The content ranges from commentary on McCullers’ personal journey to songs based on excerpts from her books – oh, and one takedown of Harper Lee.
The first three tracks have a distinctly cabaret, almost vaudevillian feel, to me, and similar vintage moments surface throughout, no doubt called up by the accordion, clarinet, banjo, ukelele and trombone, etc. - nice acoustic instrumentation. This is quite unlike what I know of her previous work – not unpleasantly so, although that said, she reverts to previous form on a couple of songs. What she definitely does very well IMHO, is to evoke a calmness and an elegance of artistry which should be enviable.
Whether entirely to my taste or not, (and vaudeville mostly ain’t) I think she is totally in command of her craft and I believe that the sheer sophistication and class that cloaks this release will probably endear her even to those who are not wholehearted fans; there is nothing jarring or unpleasant here, at all, and nothing wildly exciting either. It’s a good, safe release from a consummate whatever the female version of troubadour is! Oh – ok – just found out – it’s trobairitz. Who knew?? And again, the album seems to have been beautifully produced – not sure by whom.
Two songs I like a lot; the title track – the title of which derives from a passage in The Heart is Lonely Hunter -
And “12 Mortal Men”, which is from ending of the novella, The Ballad of the Sad Café – lovely upright bass by Byron Isaacs