It's been three years since Suzzy Roche, the youngest member of the phenomenal folk-pop trio the Roches, took the solo route away from the safety of her sisters and released her first solo album, Holy Smokes. It was a difficult record and period in her life, as it detailed and defined the hiatus that the Roches had been forced into during their father's prolonged illness and reflected Suzzy's deep sorrow at his eventual passing. In the intervening years, Suzzy has obviously come to grips with the issues that impacted her first solo work, but with her sophomore effort, the postcard-titled Songs From an Unmarried Housewife and Mother, Greenwich Village, USA, she is just as obviously altered by them as well. Even in its most airy and delicate moments, there is a tinge of melancholy and loss that is achingly tangible. Suzzy has gotten past the loss but certainly not over it.
On Songs, Suzzy's loss takes on a different twist. The disc's opener is a folk lullaby arrangement of "Yankee Doodle," quite possibly a song that she sang to her daughter Lucy (who appears here on vocals and whose father is legendary singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III) when she was a baby. And the disc closes with the "She's Leaving Home" sentiment of "Sweetie Pie," a gorgeous evocation of the bittersweet joy in watching your child chart a course in the wild world, set to a simple soundtrack of piano, violin, and Suzzy's expressive voice. These two songs set the time line, with Suzzy beginning as a young mother and finishing as an older, wiser parent and friend.
The songs in between chart her progress along that arduous path, from the sensitive observations in "Looking For God," to the jazzy counterpoint of "Out of the Blue," to the John Prine-like poignancy of "No Such Thing as Love." Songs' high points include Suzzy's spin on Jules Shear's syncopated folk anthem "Cold Hard Wind" (featuring Shear on harmony vocals and Loudon Wainwright on vocals and banjo) and her duet with daughter Lucy on sister Maggie's lighthearted "G Chord Song."
The world will be a slightly colder place without the combined voices of the giddily heartbreaking Roches to warm it up just a little. Until they find their way back together (we hope), Songs From an Unmarried Housewife and Mother, Greenwich Village, USA is a wonderful collection of songs and moods that makes one wonder what took Suzzy Roche so long to find her own wings.
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