Veteran Nashville singer-songwriter Suzi Ragsdale new EP – her first in 10-years is 6-songs (Ghost Town – CabaRay Records – drops Oct 9). Known for writing songs for major country artists, singing background on their recordings & touring as a member of bands Ragsdale occasionally dips her big toe into her own material & drops some interesting albums.
The title track “Ghost Town,” is an evenly arranged well-recorded cut with Suzi’s appealing vocal that isn’t country-overbearing or country-popish (as many modern country songs seem to be).
While Suzi isn’t as gritty & deep as Lucinda Williams, she does paint her songs with a broad brush. This tune has exceptional backup vocals and bright instrumentation. Her song subjects are a little off the beaten path which makes them interesting.
“Bonfire” explores decluttering & simplifying both the mind & home. “Loved & Won” has a litany of famous couples mentioned which can become a little weary despite its memorable melody. For me, it’s a tad gimmicky, a little novelty-oriented but that’s to be expected since her Dad is legendary songwriter Ray Stevens. No stranger to great hit songs (“Everything Is Beautiful”) & a few novelties.
Suzi repeats the formula with “Live Until You Die,” but her vocal tone here gives this vitality & it’s an optimistically uplifting cut.
The 6-tracks have a common thread of transformation & acceptance of what is out of your control. The songs reinforce that one can still persevere with humor, strength & grace. Agreed.
None of the tunes break new ground, no ass-shaking or intense songs that made up Lucinda’s “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” Maybe that LP is still in Ragsdale’s pen. I think it is.
“Wildflowers,” sounds like something Judy Collins would do but not this “Wildflowers.” This one has more rich mud than rocky soil. More stability than the average country song. This is probably why Suzi has those accolades on her songwriting. This well was dug deep. Too bad Dad – Ray Stevens — didn’t add some of his great piano playing anywhere on this LP.
The closer “The Ending,” is another exceptional marriage between melody & lyric – almost lullaby in spirit. “If I knew the ending, I wouldn’t know where to start.” (That’s brilliance). Suzi’s voice is now not so much modern as traditional. Her tone is genuine & she absorbs the moisture of country like the roots of dandelions & colorful roadside wildflowers. If Patsy Cline were alive this would be a song she’d want. Irresistible & lovely.
The band: her dad Ray Stevens (clavinet, wind chime, cymbal tree/kick drum on “Wildflowers”), Sam Frank (piano/drums), Pat McGrath (acoustic & electric guitars), Alison Prestwood (bass), Dan Dugmore (steel guitar & dobro), Tammy Rogers (violins), Bob Schleicher (harmonica), Jerry Kimbrough (electric guitar), Ned Luberecki (banjo), & several wonderful backup singers.
The 22-minute CD: produced in TN by Sam Frank (& Ray Stevens on “Wildflowers”). Available at https://www.suziragsdale.com/