Oh Susannah | Sleepy Little Sailor Expanded Edition | (MVKA Records)
3 1/2 out of Five Stars
Born in Massachusetts and brought up in Western Canada, Oh Susanna, the namesake of the low-cast singer/songwriter Suzie Ungerleider, has made her name — or names — amongst those who favor her descriptive folk finesse. Some 20 years on, she’s revisiting her sophomore album, the aptly titled Sleepy Little Sailor via an expanded reissue that finds her recasting several of the songs via acoustic renderings and adding a bonus track with her take on Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” to boot.
With the tone and treatment being mostly mellow to begin with — the only upticks come in the form of the decidedly determined “River Blue,” a relatively jaunty “All That Remains” and the countrified sway of the oddly dubbed “Ted’s So Wasted.” A cover of the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” typifies her stance by substituting intimacy for the urgency of the original, as does the version of “You Win Again” that’s proffered here as well.
Given her downcast disposition, a reboot of these songs in acoustic mode would seem a somewhat moot point. The series of songs that are recast in these sparse settings don’t change the tone or treatment to any significant degree, but while there’s no significant spread in terms of the dynamic it does give added emphasis to an album that’s well worth a return encounter. Indeed Sleepy Little Sailor helped set the course for Oh Susanna’s successful career, one that garnered her a Genie Award for Best Original Song, a Canadian Folk Music Award for English Songwriter of the Year, nominations for two Juno Awards, and a pair of Canadian Folk Music Awards for Best Solo Performer and Best Contemporary Singer of the Year, along with several additional nominations from the same organization.
As Sleepy Little Sailor suggests, Suzie/Susanna clearly earned those kudos, and while her fame may be somewhat lacking south of the U.S./Canadian divide, the reissue provides a welcome revisit and an excellent opportunity to catch up on her career before venturing on to whatever new offerings come next. Yes, it’s sleepy, but it’s also sublime.