Take Me Down, Little Susie
To be honest, Toronto singer Oh Susanna wouldn’t have been on my radar as “Most Likely to Cover The Rolling Stones”, but her show with New Country Rehab on Wednesday night proved that I should be paying better attention. On the heels of her latest album Namedropper, on which she partners with some of Canada’s best-known songwriters, Suzie Ungerleider is back from time off with some fire. The best evidence of this might be last night’s show.
The Dakota is running a residency this month with New Country Rehab, an outfit led by fiddler John Showman (Foggy Hogtown Boys, Crazy Strings) that combines the best of overdriven alt-country with sparse, eerie string band arrangements. The band takes the first set of the evening to show off their new tunes, including compositions about mining in West Virginia and Pretty Boy Floyd, then brings on a different songwriter each week to cover somebody else’s music. Complicated concept, but it’s one that seems to be working. Last week, Devin Cuddy covered Randy Newman, and I almost went, but I can’t get myself into a Newman-appreciating frame of mind. Far more attractive was the idea of Oh Susanna taking her turn down the well-worn Stones path.
The end result was not at all well-worn. Unlike her contemporaries, Ungerleider isn’t afraid to push her great voice to get the effect needed for songs like “Under My Thumb” and “Dead Flowers.” They did stick to the classics, so no surprise that “Wild Horses” showed up, but it was nice to hear a languid rendition of “No Expectations” and a triple-meter twist on “Honky Tonk Woman” to open the show. It wasn’t all Stones all the time, either: Ungerlieder threw in a couple of originals, and the band commanded a cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s “Dangerous” to shake things up.
New Country Rehab’s residency continues until the end of January, with Simone Schmidt tackling Gene Clark next week and Old Man Luedecke on Loudon Wainwright III January 28.