Sister Suzie – Ain’t No Lady
For the last two years, vocalist Susan Clarke and her veteran band have been working hard, playing gigs across England in addition to shows throughout the European continent to establish her Sister Suzie persona. Clarke was originally attracted to blues and R&B through the records of two Memphis icons, Elvis Presley and Rufus Thomas. She later fell under the spell of New Orleans legend, Irma Thomas. A cover of one of her enduring classics, “Ruler Of My Heart,” makes it clear that Suzie has a voice capable of delivering the type of nuanced delivery the song requires, featuring some outstanding tenor sax from Andy Dumment.
But Suzie is no mere imitator. “Knock Knock” is a rocking number that opens the disc in fine style, Clarke’s boisterous singing answered by Al Nichol’s deft tenor sax solo. Guest Big John Carter’s fingers tickle the ivories, laying down a tight boogie rhythm on the title track. The originals “New Shoes” and “Desire” are two more full throttle rockers, with the later cut conjuring up memories of Wanda Jackson. Another highlight is “Just Like An Old Dog,” as Suzie kicks subtlety to the curb, giving a soul-shaking performance, riding the foot-tapping rhythm from Darren Eddie Jackson on double bass and Brian Nevill on drums for all it is worth. Nick Lunt gets a brief solo interlude for his baritone sax.
When the proceedings shift over to the blues, Suzie doesn’t miss a beat. Surrounded by the horns, she aptly delivers a disheartened tale on the original slow blues, “Working Girl”. Guitarist Matt Jackson lays down an incisive solo that heightens the mood. “Big Mistake” will make you boogie-til-the-cows-come-home, powered by an infectious riff from Jackson’s guitar. Suzie & Jackson co-wrote the lush ballad, “Yours”. The singer is at her best on an unhurried performance that epitomizes the Irma Thomas style. The band switches to a grittier sound on a cover of “Stop These Teardrops,” from Texas blues singer LaVelle White, another standout track. Two other classics, “Can’t Hold Out” from Elmore James and “Sloppy Drunk” from Jimmy Rogers, are less successful due to Suzie’s mannered vocals, with the latter track rescued by the band’s spirited execution.
Mixing blues and ballads with some full-bore rockers, spiced with touches of the Louisiana swamp, Sister Suzie is another notable female vocalist putting her own spin on the sounds of a bygone era. She succeeds admirably. After hearing this disc, you will undoubtedly look forward to the day when you can hear her, and her talented musical associates, at a stateside gig or festival. Until then, give this one a spin. Just remember to turn it up, and clear the dance floor!