After more than a quarter century of touring the country, it should come as no surprise that country stalwart Suzy Bogguss can make a far-from-home stage feel like a living room. Accompanied by the excellent Charlie Chadwick on (folding!) bass, and Paul Kramer on acoustic and electric guitars and fiddle, the Nashville-based Bogguss did just that Sunday night in Berkeley at The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse. After launching her first set with assured versions of two of her earlier hits, the Nanci Griffith-penned “Outbound Train” and Cheryl Wheeler’s “Aces,” she quickly made a confidant out of her audience with a story about braving a bouncy house on a couple of scotches. Bogguss’ downhome stage manner couldn’t belie her world-class playing or her agenda for the evening: promoting her latest recording project, “Lucky,” which finds her putting a decidedly feminine stamp on the oeuvre of the legendary Merle Haggard.
“Lucky” is the kind of bold and intuitive project Bogguss has built a career upon. After a spate of Top-10 singles, Country Music Awards, and Grammy nods, Boggus spent a good chunk of the past 15 years following her muse as much as the zeitgeist. She has a voice that is at once delicate and strong, that can do just about anything (she can even yodel as she demonstrated later in the evening), and over her career she’s done about everything, from touring the country solo in a camper, achieving major label success, collaborating with Chet Atkins, recording a Western Swing album and funding her latest release with a Kickstarter campaign. That Bogguss circled back to the iconic Haggard’s material should come as no surprise…even if she’s one of the few female performers to take on so many of his songs.
On Sunday, she was especially strong on Haggard’s “The Running Kind” and “I Always Get Lucky With You.” While Bogguss introduced the latter song with a crack about how “being married for 28 years (to her husband/songwriter/engineer Doug Crider) in the music industry is like being married 100 years,” the heart that’s kept that union alive, and her fan’s loyalty, shone through her performance.
There’s been good days and bad days
But when the day is all through
Hey I always get lucky with you