Today, Norwegian artist Susanna returns with details of new album ‘Go Dig My Grave’, set for release on February 9th, 2018 via her SusannaSonata record label. The album’s title-track is streaming online now.
‘Go Dig My Grave’ is a unique project between Susanna, Swiss baroque harp player Giovanna Pessi, accordion player Ida Hidle and fiddle player & folk singer Tuva Syvertsen. The quartet has reworked ten eclectic songs from seemingly disparate worlds and brought them together on this album of sympathetic and beautiful interpretations. They lend their talents to traditional English and American folk songs, numbers by Purcell, Elizabeth Cotten, Joy Division and Lou Reed, as well a new composition by Susanna written to a poem from Charles Baudelaire’s once-banned ‘Flowers of Evil’.
The first track to be shared online is the album’s title track, “Go Dig My Grave”, a traditional folk previously sung by Jean Ritchie. Speaking of how she discovered this Susanna explains: “During my trips to the States over the past years I have picked various Folkways records (which is an incredible label) and I have been able to discover some old songs. The label presents a broad variety of American folk songs and among my favorites are the Jean Ritchie albums, and her version of ‘Go Dig My Grave’. When I heard the song I knew immediately that I wanted to sing it, I was struck by the presence in her singing and the tragic story of the song. It took a while to make my own version of it though, to find the right way to present it.”
Norwegian artist Susanna has a distinct voice in music and has been releasing music since 2004 with the duo ‘Susanna and the Magical Orchestra’, as ‘Susanna’ and under her full name, Susanna Wallumrød. She is known for her transforming of songs by AC/DC, Dolly Parton, Thin Lizzy and Leonard Cohen among others, but also for her strong originals and collaborations with artists like Jenny Hval, Ensemble neoN and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. Her previous album ‘Triangle’ received notable international praise for its originality and musical ambition.
With ‘Go Dig My Grave’, her 12th album, she explores historic musical gaps by combining music from the Great American Songbook and old English traditional with baroque instrumentation and her own, characteristic vocal interpretations. Add some Henry Purcell, some Lou Reed, and Susanna’s own composition, and the unique complexity of Susanna’s artistry is evident: ‘Go Dig My Grave’ is a profoundly personal collection of dark songs with deep roots through centuries of American and European musical heritage.
An unnerving combination of existential despair and musical beauty, ‘Go Dig My Grave’ presents a selection of songs straddling issues of lost love, abandonment – and a merciless thirst for liquor. Speaking about her new record, Susanna explains, “I am attracted to the sad songs, and how people have used music throughout the years; it feels like they use songs and singing as a way of processing and dealing with of the difficult times in their lives. There’s a lot of similarities in the dramatic ways of telling a story in the old English ballads such as ‘The Willow Song’ and ‘The Three Ravens’ and the American folk songs like ‘Go Dig My Grave’ – even if the newer folk songs have more of a straightforwardness to the tragedy.”
The combination of songs and genres is in many ways an exploration of music itself. From the resigned and slow rhythm of the longing “Rye Whiskey” to the metaphoric English ballad “The Three Ravens”, Susanna makes connections between the acute pain of American history and the poetic qualities of the more abstract European art. Ending with a version of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”, slightly more lighthearted than the rest of the album, Susanna leaves the listener with a hopeful sense of the transformational qualities of musical expression itself.
The album marks Susanna’s return to her collaboration with Swiss baroque harp player Giovanna Pessi. Pessi first appeared alongside Susanna on the album ‘Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos’, released on Rune Grammofon in 2007, and played a major role on the critically acclaimed ECM album ‘If Grief Could Wait’, a deep-dive into the sorrow-stricken music of Henry Purcell, Leonard Cohen, and Susanna herself. This time the two have invited the talented young accordion player Ida Løvli Hidle and the great Norwegian fiddle player and folk singer Tuva LivsdaWer Syvertsen to form a quartet. The result is a dynamic band that easily masters subtle shifts from the simple folk feeling of songs like Elizabeth Cowen’s “Freight Train” to the icy beauty of Purcell’s “Cold Song” and the complex, centuries-old lament of “The Willow Song”.
A brand-new composition by Susanna also features on the album. “Invitation to the Voyage” is written to a poem from Charles Baudelaire’s, ‘The Flowers of Evil’, banned in 19th century France for its treatment of decadence and eroticism. With this piece, Susanna continues a musical tradition of interpreting Baudelaire’s words, following the likes of Alban Berg and Henri Dutilleux. The song plays on the historic soundscape that characterizes much of the album, echoing the lyric symmetry and modal harmonies of the European ballad tradition, and is sparsely orchestrated by Pessi’s soft harp and ominous coloration from the fiddle and the accordion. “Quite recently I started to read Baudelaire’s ‘Flowers of Evil’. I fell in love with the beautiful poems and got the urge to sing some of them,” says Susanna. “This one is the first of the songs I have written to this poetry, and a wonderful mysterious world has opened up to me.”
Produced by Deathprod and Susanna, ‘Go Dig My Grave’ was recorded at the world-class Rainbow Studio in Oslo and is released on Susanna’s own label SusannaSonata. It is one of the several extensive projects for Susanna in 2017, among them a notable work commissioned for one of Norway’s most important jazz festivals, Vossa Jazz. An hour-long piece inspired by the surreal pictures of the Dutch 15th-century painter Hieronymus Bosch was premiered at the festival in April, and Susanna’s brand-new band, The Brotherhood of Our Lady, continues to play live in Norway through the fall of 2017.
5th November – Oslo World Festival, Norway
‘Go Dig My Grave’ tracklist:
- Freight Train (Elizabeth Cotten)
- Cold Song (John Dryden/Henry Purcell)
- Invitation to the Voyage (Charles Baudelaire/Susanna Wallumrød)
- Rye Whiskey (Traditional)
- The Willow Song (Anonymous)
- Go Dig My Grave (Traditional)
- Lilac Wine (James Shelton)
- Wilderness (Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner)
- The Three Ravens (Old English folk ballad)
- Perfect Day (Lou Reed)