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Suzie Ungerleider & Sarah Jane Scouten | July 11, 2023
The Square, Vancouver, Canada
A Double Bill with
Suzie Ungerleider & Sarah Jane Scouten
West-coast alt-country songwriters Suzie Ungerleider (formerly Oh Susanna) and Sarah Jane Scouten are coming, singing songs from their upcoming albums and a new songwriting project, Lady Mountaineer. Suzie and Sarah Jane began their collaborative relationship during an artist residency at Deer Lake in Burnaby BC alongside Samantha Parton (BeGood Tanyas). Becoming friends while on stage, a songwriting affinity and life parallels began to emerge. They both were raised in and around Vancouver, under sodden skies, waiting for late night buses and ferries, watching the orange glow of the city through the fog. Their show is an exploration of the songwriting and co-writing process, like your two favourite songwriters making a demo. Between the two of them, they have a Juno award, a Genie award, 3 Juno nominations and 8 Canadian Folk Music Award nominations.
SARAH JANE SCOUTEN
Four-time Canadian Folk Music Award nominee, Sarah Jane Scouten is a songwriter of rare quality, combining sounds of early country music, ballad singing, folk rock and 60’s soul. It’s modern indie Americana that knows exactly where it comes from, with confidence and sophistication only bought by time. Surrounding herself with top-notch musicians, the live show is as dynamic as her four (soon to be five) albums: at any moment making feet move or eliciting laughter or tears. She is dry, funny, irreverent yet generous. She has a job to do and she takes it very seriously: to entertain, to inspire and to be cathartic. An ever expanding palette and a warbling iconic country voice – honed over many a campfire – brings a freshness to her brand of ambient indie Americana. It's as relevant today as it is rooted in the music of her forebears.
In early 2020, Sarah Jane was living in rural Scotland, about to embark on an album release tour. Forced to pivot her artistic practice, with her experience as songwriting teacher she created a monthly online workshop series called Songcraft, exploring hand-picked themes in folk and Americana songwriting. She collaborated with indigenous knowledge keepers, songwriters and ethnomusicologists. The workshop was above all a faithfully-attended community gathering for musicians and listeners from Canada, USA, UK, Europe and Asia.
Sarah Jane also found the window to train as a medical herbalist during this time. For years she has had a mounting obsession with medicinal plants and their interactions in the human body, and saw the pandemic as an opportunity otherwise unavailable to her as a busy touring musician. The hedgerows – full of hawthorn, elder, nettles and oak – running through the hills of Dumfries and Galloway, were the perfect classroom for studying native British medicinal plants, as well as making medicine and initiating others into foraging and wild medicine. Sarah Jane combines this deep knowledge with her music by collecting traditional Scottish ballads about medicinal plants (check out all the Francis Child ballads!) and leads herb walks alongside songwriting workshops and concerts.
Raised in a musical family on Bowen Island, British Columbia, Sarah Jane now calls both Scotland and Canada home. The daughter of a Scottish immigrant to Canada, she was raised with ceilidh culture and fiddle music which fed directly into her passion for American old time, country and folk song. Her father played the 5-string banjo while her mother taught Scottish country dancing, and with that she found her way in music through songwriting.
Like any songwriter worthy of the name, Sarah Jane explores love with a fine-toothed comb, but isn't limited to romantic love. Love of a place, a time, the natural world and all its inhabitants tug at her sleeve, which she handles with equal power to delight and break a heart.
"Stan Rogers was able to do it, Ron Hynes was able to do it, Kate McGarrigle was able to do it – and Sarah Jane Scouten is able to do it." - Tom Power of CBC q
"Sarah Jane Scouten showcases a major talent and a whole lot of versatility." - No Depression
"An agile voice, ruminative songwriting, and love for classic country, indie pop, and everything in between." - American Songwriter
Suzie officially opens a new chapter of her already distinguished and highly successful career with the release of her Juno-nominated album entitled My Name is Suzie Ungerleider. Bursting with her trademark evocative melodies and trenchant lyrics, it's the tenth solo studio album by the American-born, Canadian-raised artist revered for such landmark records as Johnstown, Sleepy Little Sailor and A Girl in Teen City. It's also her first since the artist formerly known as Oh Susanna announced that she would now record and perform under her birth name.
The three-time Canadian Juno Award nominee has been turning heads with her singular song craft since before she released a debut EP in 1997, made back in Vancouver after her college years. She got more used to singing in public and wrote a few songs, before making a demo tape that caught the attention of the music industry. Compelled to relocate to Toronto, she met musicians who loved the Carter Family and Hank Williams as much as she did.
The EP was followed two years later by her full-length debut Johnstown. 2001's Sleepy Little Sailor stepped up the momentum, carrying her to international stages and warm new applause. That was amplified by the deliberately more band-oriented Oh Susanna in 2003, by which time her UK audience was welcoming her back regularly across the Atlantic.
Short Stories and Soon the Birds ensued, as Ungerleider mined an Americana seam very much in keeping with her own lyrical imagery and melodic sensibility. Certainly, it chimed with the twang and heartache in her voice that she took from country, blues, old time and bluegrass music. “But then something shifted,” she says. “I began to listen less to American music and more to contemporary Canadian singer-songwriters, many of whom I knew.” The result was 2014's Namedropper, featuring not mere covers but songs written for her by fellow Canadian notables. It proved to be a route back to her own self.
Her 2017 album A Girl in Teen City was a song cycle about herself as a young punk rocker coming of age in Vancouver. In the making of it, something extraordinary happened. “It was at this point that I started to feel the parts of myself integrating,” she says. “My musical self, and who I am when I'm not onstage, these started to feel more one and the same. By telling my own stories, I was showing who I really was. I was lifting the veil of Oh Susanna and revealing who I was as Suzie Ungerleider.”
Making the decision to lift the veil and finally to say “So Long” to her long-time moniker was both a personal and political one. In the summer of 2020, when support for the Black Lives Matter movement surged as a reaction to centuries of violence and oppression of people of colour, Suzie came to the realisation that she no longer wanted to be known by a stage name with historic associations to Minstrelsy. The song 'Oh Susanna' was published by Stephen Foster in 1848 in “plantation dialect” and contains offensive lyrics that were later changed. But its original sentiments are so deeply offensive that Ungerleider knew it was time to shed the name Oh Susanna.
The desire to reflect her true self as both an artist and a person culminates in a superb new album that stands tall among Suzie Ungerleider's best work. It's not just the name change that has her feeling more like herself than ever. “So here I am, leaving behind the trappings of a persona that gave me the courage to climb up onstage and reveal what is in my heart,” she reflects. “Now that I have grown, I am ready to shed that exoskeleton,” concludes Suzie. “It once protected me, but I need to take it off so I can be all of who I am.”
"Beautifully sung, rich narratives are at the core of her Americana sound." - Next.
" ... few equals in Canadian roots music." - Exclaim!
" ... full of warmth, quiet beauty and odes to family, friends and Canadiana." - Tom Power, CBC.
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