Suzannah Espie
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Suzannah Espie

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia | INDIE

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia | INDIE
Band Folk Americana

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"Live Review: The Toff in Town, Melbourne"

Mon 18th May, 2009 in Gig Reviews
Boots stomped and rattled against the floorboards like wild horses passing through as the music hall reverberated with whistle-blows from the crowd. Encore! Encore! Encore! As if everyone knew the drill, they waited impatiently for the lady bluebird, Suzannah Espie and her band, The Last Word to bring it all home.

But the night started off as calm as still waters at The Toff in Town. The lights went dim and the velvet rope drew open to reveal the opening act, The Fireside Bellows, a match made in heaven. Canadian musician, Tracy McGill and Australian singer-songwriter, Jordie Lane pulled a blanket of intimate silence over the audience with their mesmerizing vocal harmonies as they sang stories of love, loss, death and adventure.

‘Stop talking – œcause there’s a disco tonight,’ said Jordie Lane as they were about to play a bluegrass number, Put Your Lover Down. It might as well been the soundtrack to the night as there was certainly a lot of hips swaying, a lot of Yeeee Heeess! and Yeeee Haaars! going on throughout the gig. The Fireside Bellows then bowed out with a lonesome number, Lost Along The Way that left a skin-deep tingle that drew a roar of applause. A captivating line from the song went, ‘Lost on the highway/til I hear the bluebirds singing.’

And then there were nine who came and brought the house down at The Toff. The country singer-songwriter from WA, Suzannah Espie took centre stage with her sure and sultry voice. Andrew Ogburd a.k.a Big Boy Lemonade, whom Espie referred to as her ‘right-hand man’, rocked the crowd with his piano solos. Espie’s husband, Ian Collard was on the harp with Dean Shulz on the guitar, Dave Folley on drums and Chris Rogers on bass. They kicked off the show with a less than cheery number, Disappointment but the night was far from what the song title suggests. They made a stop at City Station, a song dedicated to Charles Jenkins. As she presented another cover, Hank William’s Lonesome Whistle Blowing, Espie joked, ‘this is a Billy Ray Cyrus Tune.’

There was something about Espie, a certain boldness to her that commands the stage. There was something powerful in her brooding gaze as she belts out a soulful ballad, a cover of Wayward Fancies’ song about love and redemption, Best Behaviour. Her voice hung true to each note and each lyric, which made it the most beautiful number of the night.

But the show wasn’t without the voices of three country songstresses, Sarah Carroll, Kerri Simpson and Lil’ Fi who featured on Suzannah Espie and the Last Word’s new album, First and Last Hotel. The country women’s flare for fun gave the show its irresistible Southern charm. They were clapping, dancing and singing together like soul sisters who’ve known each other forever, which brought more than a smile to our faces. Towards the end of the show, Sarah Carroll helped Dave Folley out on the drum solo, rolling and tumbling without a care in the world.

Espie never holds back once the microphone falls into her hands. She delivered each song simply with all she’s got. Let It Slide was the strongest number, which showcased her vocal range and her sense of optimism as an artist to presevere no matter how ‘tired’ she would get. Although Espie and her band are still fresh on the scene, Espie’s performance transcended the essence of blues that was home to artists like Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell.

After the encore broke into an exhilarating applause, the ensemble returned to a ‘bit of good old country’, in Espie’s words. As she took on the Kerri Simpson song, Calling From Memphis, Espie told the audience how someone has criticised her for moving from country to soul and that she would perform the song ‘just in case’. ‘I’m just excited that people are talking about me.’

The hall was still packed as the encore roared on to no avail after Espie has said her final goodbye. Suzannah Espie was right when she told The Age that sometimes the song is not the most important thing. It was her vocals and the Last Word’s performance that rocked and the Fireside Bellows who delivered the magic of country songwriting on this Saturday night, as their seamless harmony and heartfelt stories seemed to ring still in the dispersing crowd. - Faster Louder


Discography

Sea of Lights - To be released October 2012
First and Last Hotel - 2009
A Few More Days - 2005

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Bio

Suzannah Espie is a gem, and in time will assume the mantle of one of Australia’s great vocal matriarchs” DB Magazine

“There’s no shortage these days of fey-voiced singer/songwriters. So thank the heavens and the lung gods for Suzannah Espie, a woman who’s not afraid to sing, really sing. And yowza, can she.” **** The Age

“Some of the finest country-soul vocals you’ll hear in your life” ***** MAG

“Espie’s performance transcended the essence of blues that was home to artists like Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell.” Faster Louder

Suzannah Espie was born in England, brought up in WA and found herself in Melbourne at 18. Studying composition at Latrobe Uni, she graduated with distinction and has spent the subsequent years forgetting most of what she learned.

"Everything I sing is from my heart, " she says, and those lucky souls who have floated on Suzannah's sound through the days of GIT and The Last Word would certainly swear to that. Ms Espie sings her songs honestly, with art but no artifice, and her voice is so rich and satisfying, so musical, that little else is needed. Her original songs brim with soul and country attitude. Mixing her keen eye with her gentle heart, they ring with conviction and warmly wrap the listener in tenderly observed, sweetly rendered experience.

Suzannah and pianist Andrew 'Big Boy Lemonade' Ogburn received Australia's highest blues accolade in 2008, winning the MBAS Blues Performer of the Year Award and flying to Memphis, Tennessee, to represent their country amongst 200-odd finalists from around the world. Whilst in the USA, Suzannah visited the church of soul legend Al Green, and witnessed a service there, which she says, "reminded me of how much the sheer joy of music means to me."

Suzannah spent most of ’09/’10 touring to promote her most recent album First and Last Hotel produced by acclaimed singer/songwriter Charles Jenkins (Ice-cream Hands). Like her debut solo effort A Few More Days, First and Last Hotel garnered rave reviews both in Australia and abroad. Her new album Sea of Lights will be released in October 2012.