Suzanne Vega in 2014 has evolved, progressed musically somewhat from her ‘Left Of Center’ or ‘Solitude Standing’ days, as it should be, life moves on, with an ever changing music landscape, a different modern-folk take with guitar-minded orchestrations, made complete with occasional brass works. The new album fits happily into 2014, one thing from the outset that becomes apparent, her song writing and lyrical fluidity remains and continues to beguile, even sung over heavier backing the outcome is always close if not on the mark.
The new album take listeners on a sonic excursion through her diverse influences, “A lot of my older albums, especially the second one, were about being solitary. This album has more of a sense of connectivity, there is a different spirit.” Vega’s first new studio album in seven years, ‘Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles,’ will be released on Cooking Vinyl Records on February 3rd 2014, featuring ten new songs each telling a story that has to do with the material world and the world of the spirit and how they intersect. Suzanne spent the past few years writing and recording these new gems on the road, recording portions in Chicago, London, Prague, LA and New York City, and Kyserike Station, an old train station in upstate New York. Tracking for the album took place mostly at the Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, and the album was mixed by Kevin Killen, who has worked with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush.
Produced by Gerry Leonard, David Bowie’s musical director for over a decade, ‘Queen of Pentacles’ features Suzanne’s longtime bass player Mike Visceglia and drummer Doug Yowell. For the first time on a studio recording, Suzanne has also assembled an illustrious group of musicians to accompany her including Gail Ann Dorsey and Zachary Alford (David Bowie) on bass and drums for several tracks-a happy reunion as Suzanne and Zachary attended the same elementary school back in the 70’s in New York City; bass player Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel) on the rhythm-heavy “I Never Wear White” and “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain;” drummer Jay Bellerose (T-Bone Burnett’s main go-to drummer); acoustic “wizard” Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan) who plays banjo, mandolin, and cymbal throughout the album; Sterling Campbell (David Bowie, B52s) on drums for “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain” and “Laying on of Hands;” and Alison Balsom, the virtuoso principal trumpet for the London Chamber Orchestra who is featured on “Road Beyond This One (Horizon) for Vaclav Havel”.
Stream ‘I Never Wear White’
A fan of hip hop as well, Vega samples the 50 Cent song ‘Candy Shop’ for one of the more unique tracks on the album, ‘Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain’. This is Suzanne’s first sampling effort – although her song “Tom’s Diner” has been interpolated countless times in the hip-hop community, she has not sampled anyone else until this album.
However there’s a lot more favourable present on the album. The first track ‘Crack In The Wall’ works well, the emotional feast of ‘I Never Wear White’ also impresses. ‘Portrait of the Knight of Wands’ takes you back to ‘The Queen And The Solider’ if not in the narrative. The storytelling continues uninterrupted as the tale of ‘Jacob And The Angel’ resonates and ‘Sliver Bridge’ which has that trademarks of past Suzanne Vega songs if nothing else, at least in the breaks. Guess the headlines screams the Suzanne is in great shape for 2014, listening to ‘Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles’ I whole heartily agree, a most welcome return, where have you been all this time?. 8.3/10
Suzanne will be touring worldwide in 2014, dates confirmed so far are listed below. Further dates to be announced soon:
30.01.2014 Manchester Bridge Water Hall UK
01.02.2014 Glasgow Celtic Connections UK
02.02.2014 Gateshead Sage UK
03.02.2014 Birmingham Town Hall UK
05.02.2014 Bristol Colston Hall UK
06.02.2014 Nottingham Nottingham Royal Concert Hall UK
07.02.2014 London The Barbican UK
20.02.2014 Dublin The Olympia Theatre Ireland