Out of the heart of true Americana comes the first official release from veteran songwriter Mia Suzanne Walker in Suzanne Band’s Breathe EP, a sweet slice of six acoustic gems that fuse influences from folk and country music to yield the breathtaking setlist we discover on this album. Fans of all music genres will find themselves hypnotized by Suzanne’s southern drawl and plaintive insight.
There’s a stigma that a lot of singer/songwriters have to deal with when developing autumnal ballads about heartache and reflection, which is that literate poetry about the complexities of love and loss can never be sophisticated when it’s delivered in a folk-rock context. For a good example, look no further than John Denver. Denver’s career suffered a great deal because of this stigma. Despite becoming the poet laureate of Colorado and penning four decades worth of the most earnest and contemplative songs ever recorded in pop music, he never managed to shake the public’s association of his music with a perceivably uneducated hippie culture. Although things could have worked out better for Denver, something tells me that Suzanne will avoid the same fate thanks to the non-commercial and anti-genre route she has chosen to take her career. The folk elements of Breathe aren’t particularly self-indulgent and don’t ascribe to any set notion of format, and the country twang isn’t soaked in overproduction, making the entire record much more breathable (pun intended) and accessible than any of the music being pushed at the CMAs this year.
The EP starts off with “Down in Mexico,” a fun ballad that contrasts the timber of Walker’s voice with sparkling acoustic guitars and a sense of exotic relaxation. That feeling that comes with turning off the phone, unplugging your stress and just embracing the cool breeze coming across a deserted beach. “Losing You,” takes on a more serious tone as Suzanne looks back on the breakdown of a heartfelt romance between two people. “Young and Free” follows the same kind of theme, retrospectively analyzing the hallmarks of what make our youth so exciting and eternally sacred. It’s that special ability to just roll with things as they come, take on any challenge, no matter how daunting or seemingly impossible, and how desperately we try to recapture that as we grow older. It is hard for me to recall the last time that I heard songs that went so deep but managed to remain very simple and modest in their structural design. I’m impressed not only by Suzanne’s prose but by the comfortability that she gives off in these songs, like they’re stories she’s kept intimately close to her own heart.
Suzanne’s Band would be a treat to see live, and I truly hope there will be some extensive touring in support of the Breathe EP to help continue the critical momentum that Mia Suzanne Walker is quickly collecting in 2018.
by Sherry McCrae