Reviews Zone

Oh Susanna: Sleepy Little Sailor (MVKA) 4th September 2020



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)




I heard a track from this album on late night radio in the UK prior to its original release back in 2001. It may have been Bob Harris to thank for the on-air spin. I went out and ordered it the next day.

Wind forward a couple of years when I was covering a festival with a review and photographs, and walking backstage across the grass and coming towards me was Suzie Ungerleider, aka Oh Susanna.

Stopped to have a brief chat and tell her how much her album meant to me. Later on stage she was wonderful and even dedicated a song from the album to me, which was lovely.

So here we are in 2020 and that album is being re-issued, as a “Deluxe Edition”, featuring the 11 songs from the original plus previously unreleased acoustic recordings of five of the songs, including the title track. Available on CD, digital and for the first time on vinyl.

US-born and raised in Canada, Suzie adopted the Oh Susanna moniker for her gigs in the mid-90s. Her debut album, “Johnstown” dropped in 1999 and made an impact. That was re-issued last year.

Suzie was a clerk at her local library in Vancouver when she self-released a cassette tape of seven of her songs in 1996, which she recorded for just $200. After a set at a local club, she had the music biz suits and booking agents turn out to see her and getting excited over this fresh young talent.

Of the 16 tracks offered on this new version of her second album, track three has me all of a quiver. I’d forgotten about this stunner until hearing it again today. Otis Redding’s, “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”. The record is all good, for sure, but her vocal and emotional investment on this old soul ballad is very special indeed.

The acoustic versions of “River Blue” and “Kings Road” are newly recorded with producer Jim Bryson, while the acoustic versions of the title track, “Sacrifice” and “Beauty Boy” are taken from the original demo sessions with producer Colin Kripps. Her voice is mesmerising on the stripped down and raw acoustic versions.

“River Blue” is still one of the most requested songs in Suzie’s repertoire. It tells of the long-lasting effects of child abuse on close relationships. “A plea for reconciliation and forgiveness by an older sister who as a kid tried to save herself at the cost of her sister’s safety”.

Suzie has many nods for various awards and a clutch of gongs she has picked up across her almost quarter of a century recording career.

There’s a damn good reason for that – and you get a decent understanding of why across this timeless gold nugget. Welcome back old friend….


By Simon Redley



1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’




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