Andra Suchy,
Little Heart
(Red House, 2012)

Raised in rural North Dakota and now living in Minneapolis, Andra Suchy is the daughter of folk musicians. Only the occasional cut of Little Heart (including the enchanting title song about a river in her native state) feels like folk music of any unhyphenated sort, however. Much of what we hear here is the sort of fusion of country, pop and rock that seems more and more to define "roots music" in the 21st century. It isn't the sort of thing to which I am automatically drawn, but there's no doubt that Suchy is a talented practitioner of it. If there's room on the broader pop/country scene for her approach, she may have a shot at stardom.

Her virtues are readily apparent, for instance her strong vocals and generally capable songwriting, not to mention her physical beauty (though, curiously, the four photographs of her on the cover and interior look as if of four different women). She's a semi-regular on Garrison Keillor's public-radio Prairie Home Companion. I haven't seen her perform live, but I have no trouble imagining that she's impressive on stage.

Nine of the 11 cuts are originals. I like some more than others. A few -- "90 MPH," "Darkness," "You Can Keep It" -- strike me as bland and generic, which is to say that we may be hearing them on adult-alternative radio one of these days. Others pack a wallop, notably a superb, emotionally cutting cover of Neil Young's "Helpless" and a compelling version of her father Chuck Suchy's "Georgianna."

As always in these cases (of which I encounter more all the time, it seems), I prefer the folkish stuff to the poppier material. It is, of course, basically a matter of personal preference. I suspect that listeners will not wax enthusiastic about everything in these (metaphorical) grooves, though they won't agree on what's agreeable. Regardless, Andra Suchy, who possibly is going places, is surely someone to watch.

music review by
Jerome Clark

5 May 2012

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