Suzy Thompson | No Mockingbird

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Blues: Classic Female Blues Folk: Jug Band Moods: Type: Acoustic
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No Mockingbird

by Suzy Thompson

Old-time fiddle rags and blues songs
Genre: Blues: Classic Female Blues
Release Date: 

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1. Babe
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3:20 album only
2. Frosty Morning Blues
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3:57 album only
3. Red Apple Rag
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3:05 album only
4. Salt Lake City Blues
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3:12 album only
5. My Handy Man
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4:07 album only
6. Teabag Blues
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2:45 album only
7. Prodigal Son
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4:09 album only
8. Worried Yid Waltz
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3:23 album only
9. No Mockingbird
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3:12 album only
10. Blue Devil Blues
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2:34 album only
11. California Blues/Left All Alone Again Blues
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2:36 album only
12. Lonesome Shack
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3:21 album only
13. Dickson County Blues
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2:57 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Suzy Thompson is featured on fiddle, guitar and vocals, with: Mike Seeger on mandolin; Kweskin Jug Band alumni Geoff Muldaur on kazoo, Fritz Richmond on jug, and Maria Muldaur on vocals; bluegrass ace Bill Evans on banjo; a raft of great guitarists including Jody Stecher, Eric Thompson, Del Rey, Tony Marcus and Paul Hostetter; stride piano from Hoyle Osborne; bassist Steven Strauss, and Dave Murray on banjo-uke.

Suzy Thompson started her musical career while still in her teens during the 1970's. She's been a member of all kinds of roots music bands, including the all-woman Any Old Time String Band; the Klezmorim; California Cajun Orchestra and the Bluegrass Intentions. She's worked as a side musician with Maria Muldaur, Dave Alvin, Geoff Muldaur, Beausoleil, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Laurie Lewis, Frankie Armstrong, D.L. Menard, and many others. "No Mockingbird" is her first solo album, released in 2003.


"Suzy has been a vital force in my musical soundscape for nigh-on thirty years. But through time, she just kept showing up in great musical combinations playing beautiful fiddle and singing with laser-like exactitude, unerringly seeking out the soul of whatever music it was that she put her talents to, whether it was old-time string band, Cajun, Greek rembetika, bluegrass, or blues.
I have often thought that of all the various styles into which Suzy has delved, she has a particular way with the sensuous and often overlooked body of fiddle tunes known as blues and rags. She has talked about recording this material for some time, and I am glad that she has finally done it. Her fiddle is a sweet and wailing voice that it is impossible to ignore. Over the years, that voice has gotten more sassy, sultry and flexible. And not only her fiddle's voice, but her own singing voice as well: the laser edge has softened, gotten fuller and more expressive with age and experience." Laurie Lewis

About the music
Babe, from the mysterious and swinging East Texas Serenaders, was one of the very first tunes that I learned off an old recording, nearly 30 years ago in a haunted house that has since burned down. Frosty Morning Blues is from the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith. Red Apple Rag comes to us from Arthur Smith via Otis Burris' fiddling (Is it bluegrass or is it oldtime? Yes!) Cathie Whitesides has been into this raggy kind of fiddling way deep for a long time, and composed the Salt Lake City Blues while living near Mendocino in the Old Timey Hotel. She taught it to me not long after she wrote it, and at the time it included some rhythmic potholes which she later filled in. I liked the potholes and so I have kept them in my version. My Handy Man comes from Victoria Spivey (probably the only musician to record with both Fats Waller and Bob Dylan.) Hank Bradley's Teabag Blues isn't exactly a blues, nor can I see what it has to do with teabags (and loose tea is much better anyway, maybe that's the point.) Prodigal Son comes from hillbilly blues singer and banjo player Dock Boggs. Worried Yid is really called Der Farzorgter Yid and was recorded by Belf's Romanian Orchestra sometime around 1913. Marty Schwarz translates "farzorgter" as "worried, uptight"; I envision a cross between Woody Allen and Alfred E. Newman. I made up No Mockingbird about 10 years ago; Eric describes it as "Memphis Minnie on acid". Blue Devil Blues is from blues fiddler Clifford Hayes who played with the Sara Martin Jug Band (the very first jug band to record, back in 1923.) Huge thanks to Fritz and Geoff for helping us to get that jug band sound! California Blues comes from the Stripling Brothers, Alabamans who made about 60 sides in the 1930's. The B part always reminded me of the silly Lowe Stokes song "Left All Alone Again Blues" so I combined them. "I like dog, I'm fond of rabbit, I like goldfish, I like my habit". Go figure. Lonesome Shack is Memphis Minnie, the pioneer woman blues singer and guitarist who was a model of strength and fierce independence. Dickson County Blues is another one from Arthur Smith that I have played for years.

About the Musicians
Many of the musicians on this album were among my earliest influences in my journey through oldtime Southern music, what a joy and honor to play with them! The New Lost City Ramblers were the first oldtime band I heard; Mike Seeger has been an ongoing source of inspiration and encouragement. Three alumni of the Kweskin Jug Band are here too. Maria Muldaur's smoking renditions of Memphis Minnie songs turned me on to the country blues; she was the first woman fiddler I ever saw. Geoff Muldaur's velvety voice makes the kazoo sound like a real instrument. Fritz Richmond, certainly the greatest living jug player, contributes his splatting and spitting to our jug band sound. In 1975-76, Eric & I played in a band called the Blue Flame Syncopators with pianist Hoyle Osborne. This band did not last long but it was a time that changed all of our lives forever. I greatly admire Del Rey's inventive guitar and uke stylings, Tony Marcus' elegant, swingy guitar playing and Paul Hostetter's simple but punchy rhythms. Eric's deep guitar runs and glossy tremolo won my heart many years ago. Jody Stecher was my fiddle teacher when I was in my late teens; he's been one of my musical heroes ever since. Dave Murray and Steven Strauss share an uncanny understanding of oldtime music groove. Bill Evans, my Bluegrass Intentions cohort, has the best time, tone and taste of any bluegrass banjo player I know. Larry Cohea plays thumpy old-style bass with the Intentions and wins the good attitude prize. Alan Senauke (another Intention) has been a musical partner and friend for over 20 years and his help with this project was very much appreciated.


Reviews


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Joe Ross

Blue mountain funk and fired up fiddle
Suzy Thompson subtitles this album “old-time fiddle rags and blues songs,” although the scope is actually even broader. Her assisting cast includes an impressive musical cadre: Kate Brislin, Bill Evans, Paul Hostetter, Tony Marcus, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, Dave Murray, Hoyle Osborne, Del Rey, Fritz Richmond, Mike Seeger, Jody Stecher, Eric Thompson, Larry Cohea, and Steven Strauss. They work well together and easily fall into a mountain music groove. A fiddled “Babe” opens the project, and good liner notes tell us that this is the first tune Thompson learned some three decades ago from an East Texas Serenaders record. Piano and voice are the featured instruments on Bessie Smith’s “Frosty Morning Blues.” Her renditions of “Red Apple Rag” and “Dickson County Blues” (from Arthur Smith), “Salt Lake City Blues” (from Cathie Whitesides), “California Blues” (from the Stripling Brothers) and “Blue Devil Blues” (from Clifford Hayes) are old-time, blues and jug band music at their best and would be great tunes of choice in fiddle contests. I would call Hank Bradley’s “Teabag Blues” a hoedown, while the Romanian “Worried Yid” is actually a waltz. She also sings tales of dejection, destitution and melancholy from Victoria Spivey, Dock Boggs, Memphis Minnie, and her own title cut, “No Mockingbird.”

Suzy Thompson has amassed some impressive musical experience. In the mid-70s, her all-woman Any Old Time String Band toured and recorded. As a member of Klezmorim, she appeared on their second LP, Streets of Gold, and she’s recorded with various other well-known old-time, bluegrass, Celtic and Cajun artists. In the 80s, Suzy toured and recorded with the Blue Flame Stringband and the Backwoods Band, then she formed the California Cajun Orchestra featuring accordionist Danny Poullard. In 1994, she toured Scotland and England as part of the Masters of the Folk Violin Tour. Thompson also teaches at many festivals and music camps.

Suzy Thompson’s “No Mockingbird” presents an interesting dichotomy of blue mountain funk and fired up fiddle. I can tell that deep down inside Suzy’s a sunbeam, and this album is clearly a pepper-upper. (Joe Ross, Roseburg, Or.)