Take a trip with Oh Susanna

Singer’s sixth album, Soon the Birds, is a narrative masterpiece

Suzie Ungerleider

Suzie Ungerleider

On a trip to her manager’s office in downtown Toronto last Friday, Oh Susanna caught sight of a fellow commuter grooving to the sounds of Beyoncé.

The woman, you could say, was in a zone – transfixed by the rhythms, oblivious to the bumps of the rolling train and jostling passengers.

“She is listening to this stuff that made her move,” says Suzie, who hopes her music takes listeners away to another realm, albeit one without shaking booties.

Suzie Ungerleider, who writes and performs under the name Oh Susanna, does that rather well. Her five critically acclaimed records are noted for their contemplative, thoughtful, folk-inspired songs that transport listeners into an imaginary, emotional landscape.

Her latest opus, Soon the Birds, continues that theme.

When I’m writing, I am imagining and visualizing that place, explains Suzie, who took more than a year to record Soon the Birds with Juno-Award-winning producer David Travers-Smith (Jane Siberry, Wailin’ Jennys).

The loose recording schedule allowed for a more organic production process and room for experimentation.

Allowing the songs to percolate and steep was something Suzie liked.

“I appreciated it because it made the producer and I think about what was the right approach and not rush into something,” she says.

The Oh Susanna/Travers-Smith collaboration used the talents of more than 30 musicians.

The players, who read like a who’s who of the Canadian roots music scene, include Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), renowned guitarist Kevin Breit (Rosanne Cash, Norah Jones), vocalists Ruth Moody (Wailin’ Jennys) and Brenley McEachern (Madison Violet) and members of the Foggy Hogtown Boys. Handpicked to add their unique sounds to Soon the Birds, these artists join longtime band members bassist Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo), guitarist Gord Tough (Kathleen Edwards) and Oh Susanna’s husband, drummer Cam Giroux (Weeping Tile, Ron Sexsmith).

Oh Susanna is a musician who is inspired by the stories of ordinary people, the intimate details of someone’s life.

A recent interview in Q Magazine compared her to Gillian Welch, an American singer-songwriter known for her haunting lyrics.

“ I just let the stories form,” explains Suzie, who begins the writing process by first flushing out the melody.

“I like to listen to what people have to say about their troubles.”

Abrams Brothers headline tour

The Abrams Brothers are fourth-generation musicians with musical roots reaching back to their great-grandparents.

And despite their age, veteran is certainly not a word out of reach given their credits. Comprised of John (vocals, guitar), 19, James (vocals, fiddle), 16, and cousin Elijah (bass), 19, this young, Ontario-based Americana-Bluegrass band pairs a rich musical background with a youthful exuberance.

In support of their recent CD Northern Redemption, The Abrams Brothers bring songs of love gained and lost and about getting out and moving on.  The Abrams Brothers have grown up and truly shine as young men – young men with a taste of life whose insecurities fall second to a passion to make their own destiny.

In 2005, the Ontario-based group became the youngest Canadians to appear on Nashville’s iconic Grand Ole Opry.  In 2006, the band received the Daniel Pearl Memorial violin, given to especially gifted young musicians.

• The Abrams Brothers and Oh Susanna perform at The ACT at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Win tickets

To win two tickets to the Abram Brothers and Oh Susanna show, email newsroom@mapleridgenews.com with the name of one of Suzie’s albums.