Crow (Cravedog Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Portland, Oregon's Little Sue crafts painfully beautiful music straight from the heart. Honest to the core, there isn't a note or word out of place on this album. Her sweet, lovely voice blends well with the country music and porch feel found throughout. Sweetened with a pop touch, her sound is quite complete. Backing her are some of the finest musicians in Portland, but there are too many to mention. She brings in quite the gang when she hits the studio, and as her second record shows, it's well worth the effort. Here is some of the sweetest, most heart-on-your-sleeve music you'll ever find, and it is that much better coming from a woman (sorry, I just love female vocalists).
Opening with "Down to You," Little Sue will have you hooked. All she had to do was sing over the music, throw a hook and some pedal steel my way, and I was hooked, too. The banjo bounces around in the song along with the pedal steel and rhythm section, who make it a very bouncy country number that will be stuck in your head for quite some time.
The title track calms things down a bit. Taking a breather from the go-getter opener, Little Sue offers plenty more on this gentle, "sitting on the porch with a beer" number that is as delicate as a new born kitten and as open as the night sky. Her voice is just as relaxed as the song; she'll have you sitting down and taking it easy as you surround yourself with the lovely vibe she plays with.
"Warning Trains" has the sting of a hangover and the soothing-ness of lying under the night sky and seeing nothing but beauty above you. Sue's voice seems a bit reluctant, yet relieved, to be telling the story it is telling. The music is smooth and gentle, wrapping around you like a comfortable blanket, but with Sue's voice and lyrics, the dark element is added to the song.
"In the Morning" has the freshness and warmth of getting out of bed and feeling the sunshine on your face. The soft country vibe flows through the song with a delightful essence, while Sue's voice seems upbeat and content; you could even say she sounds pleasant and happy with life. The steady beat of the rhythm section helps put a bounce in the number while the guitar gently slides through the song, mixing the go-getter enthusiasm and the relaxed, comfortable feel Sue is capable of.
"These Days" has a jazzy, swingin' festa feel to it. The song starts out with a breezy trumpet in the background adding the festa flavor to the song over Little Sue's gliding voice. Then the full band kicks in and the party erupts. The horns and percussion, as well as the line "I'm moving on without you darling, these days," suggests Sue is moving on and taking the path she feels she should take, wherever it leads her. With some kazoo and various instruments sprinkled in, not to mention Sue's voice and hints at humor through the lyrics, you can't help but feel as if this is a real festa brought to you to close out the album with a happy, carefree number. And, as it is, the song sounds very carefree and spontaneous.
If you thought Shania Twain was a good country-leading female, once you hear Little Sue you'll forget about Shania Twain's pop-gone-Nashville and come home for some true female fronted country. Little Sue can do it in style; she doesn't care who sees her heart on her sleeve. Here is one of the best country albums of 1999. I'll give it an A+.