Album Review: Oh Susanna – Johnstown

Oh Susanna is one of the most critically acclaimed women within folk today, having earned scores of awards and accolades over the years from Best Original Song to Best Solo Performer. She is arguably one of the most talented and influential performers to have emerged from Canada and has brought her charismatic joy and passion to listeners the world over.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of one of her most astonishing albums Johnstown and to commemorate the original release of her folk-noir debut album a special anniversary edition has been released. If you order fast from her website you can even manage to procure an autographed copy of the special edition of the album that launched Oh Susanna into the spotlight evermore. Johnstown is every bit as beautiful as it was originally but there is something new and exciting that underlies it all. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that it has been carefully remastered but no matter what the cause, the result is an album that feels as though it crackles with static electricity, like it could spark at any moment. The power and passion that it held 20 years ago has been amplified and is now a domineering force to be reckoned with.

Johnstown is the only instance of music that I can recall where it has been classed as folk-noir. It’s an unusual term with connotations of gritty black and white cinematic excursions where everything hinges on that one McGuffin that lets the hero piece it all together. And to be honest, it’s the closest an album could ever come to being just that. Oh Susanna carefully constructed an album that plays out like a tense and oddly beautiful TV show completely with passion, pain, love and loss. It’s a heart-breaking ode to the world that serves equal parts joy and sorrow and it is every bit as difficult to classify now as it was then. Which is precisely how folk-noir has come to fit it so well. Riding in tandem to these beautiful and often melancholic tales is the absolutely heart-rending vocals that are brought to life here. Atop quivering violins and delicate piano tunes Johnstown is powered by powerful and belting vocals that could crack a boulder at a thousand yards.

Oh Susanna is one of the most beautiful and tenderly comforting acts to emerge from Canada in many years and in all honesty one of the most astounding the world over. Her voice is timeless and soulful which her attentive and charmed music wraps it all careful together to create an album that is as timeless as her voice. While the 20 years between it’s original release and now might seem a long time, the sound that Oh Susanna produces is ever bit as fresh and invigorating now as it was then.


Wed 4 Leicester The Musician

Fri 6 LutterworthLeics. The Long Road Festival, AMA-UK stage

Sat 7 High Wycombe Kingsmead House Concert

Mon 9 London The Water Rats

Tue 10 Birmingham Kitchen Garden Café

Wed 11 Bury The Met Studio

Thu 12 Glasgow The Glad Café

Fri 13 Liverpool Liverpool Philharmonic, Music Room 


Review by Joe Knipe


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