From Dirty Linen, Feb.-March 2004 -- Review by L.D.P.
It's difficuult to believe it, but No Mockingbird is Suzy Thompson's debut solo recording. She is very well known for her fine fiddling in bands including Bluegrass Intentions and California Cajun Orchestra, and she has explored the landscape of roots fiddling. No Mockingbird is a treat -- all old-timey rags and blues with a klezmer waltz thrown in for good measure - with superb accompanying musicians. These include most of the Intentions (Alan Senauke is present in spirit, to be sure), as well as members of the Kweskin Jug Band (Geoff and Maria Muldaur), Mike Seeger, Del Rey, Jody Stecher, and Kate Brislin. The fare ranges from sassy to sexy and includes tunes like "Tea Bag Blues" and the double-entendre-loaded "My Handy Man." There's even an East Texas Serenaders tune (!), "Babe." Thompson consistently amazes with the breadth of her material and the sweet expressiveness of her playing, whether in a band context or as front woman.
From the Old Time Herald, Winter 2004 -- Review by Bill Hicks
This is just elegant. Maybe it's the altitude out West, where you get a better perspective, and the air wakes you up in the morning with a smile. Suzy Thompson has been a student of rags and blues for a long time (she taught a terrific class in fiddle rags at Augusta a few years back), and she presents them with perfect assurance, riding the edge between fiddling and violining like a skateboarder rides a railing in golden Gate Park. That's the drill with these tunes; they are all stated melodies to start with, it's not just vampintg in the changes. But they still have to swing. Otherwise it all collapses into Gunther Shuler land, which isn't such a good plan.
Suzy also takes the listener through a rag tune journey, from the formal to the more fiddle-tune style of a "Red Apple Rag", a "Dickson County Blues" (both from Arthur Smith). On these two she has the able support of Bill Evans, about as solid a Scruggs-style banjo player as you can find, and she'd get many a holler with these uptempo burners. Each cut is a step in the trip. A burner, an easy fox-trot rhythm, a slow complex divigation where you have to count to find all the parts, and, bless patty, if you try to sit in on such session without getting in the way. If you run into Suzy in the rag frame of mind somewheres, stick a little note on your hat that says, "Got a chart for this?" and offer to go for drinks if the gang looks dry.
And then Suzy gives us some vocals-blues kinda require some words after all. Her choices here are just spectacular. "Handy Man Blues" is from Victoria Spivey (the only person to have recorded with both Fats Waller and Bob Dylan, Suzy tells us in the notes.) I've heard something a lot like it from Bessie Smith too. Don't play it for your inlaws if they're of the hardshell persuasion, though in that case it's certain they need to hear it. "Frosty Morning Blues" is from Bessie Smith as well-and Suzy sings these two in that '20s style that predates the intimacy of a Billie Holiday. (Probably the Shure company has a lot more to do with the evolution of vocal phrasing and style that we will ever know.) "Prodigal Son," from Doc Boggs, is one of the great songs of all time, and Suzy does it proud with an assortment of glissandos, scoops and swoops. Jody Stecher adds in some haunting low-tuned banjo. Her own "No Mockingbird," which she tells us that her husband Eric describes as "Memphis Minnie on acid," is a terrific slow blues utilizing negative metaphors to describe the sadness that blues are about:
"I'm drowning in the deep muddy waters of the murky river,
Eric plays a great bluesy cuatro on this one, with Suzy providing the rhythm guitar. It's a worthy title cut, and of course she's buried it in the middle of the set. Elegant. Le Duet Thompson, this time with Eric playing the great lead guitar lines he's famous for, returns later for "Lonesome Shack," a song that might have been sung by Robert Johnson but comes from Memphis Minnie herself. It's a great closer to the singing section of the CD. There's not a cut on this project that isn't worth many listens. Go get yourself one. Get several. Christmas is coming.
From Sing Out! Magazine, Winter 2004 -- Review by Mike Regenstreif:
Fiddler, guitarist and singer Suzy Thompson has played a lot of different kinds of music in a lot of different kinds of bands since I first heard her, circa 1974, backing British ballad singer Frankie Armstrong. She's been part of such groups as the Any Old Time String Band, the Klezmorim, the Blue Flame String Band, the California Cajun Orchestra and the Todalo Shakers, and, as a duo with her husband, Eric Thompson.
On the first album that she's done under her own name, Suzy takes the listener on a good-time musical tour through the various styles of music at which she's become expert. She's particularly effective playing classic and jug band blues. "Frosty Morning Blues" and "My Handy Man" bring us back to the classic blues sounds of Bessie Smith and Victoria Spivey, and feature sly vocals from Suzy and terrific piano arrangements from Hoyle Osborne with Suzy and eric on rhythm and lead acoustic guitars. The jug band tunes, with backup from Fritz Richmond and Geoff Muldaur of the original Jim Kweskin Jug Band, include "Blue Devil Blues" and "Woried Yid Waltz," a delightful jug band and klezmer fusion that could only happen in the hands of someone who has played and loves both kinds of music.
With help from Eric and Jody Stecher, Suzy delves deep into Appalachian music with Dock Boggs' "Prodigal Son" and she fiddles up bluegrass and old-time storms on "Red Apple Rag" and "Teabag Blues" with Mike Seeger on mandolin and Bill Evans on banjo.
A solo album from Suzy Thompson was too long in coming. I hope there'll be a second volume of Suzy's eclectic work as the featured artist before too long.
From Bluegrass Now -- Review by Joe Ross:
Suzy Thompson subtitles this album "old-time fiddle rags and blues songs," although the scope is actually even broader. Her assisting cast includes an impressive musical cadre: Kate Brislin, Bill Evans, Paul Hostetter, Tony Marcus, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, Dave Murray, Hoyle Osborne, Del Rey, Fritz Richmond, Mike Seeger, Jody Stecher, Eric Thompson, Larry Cohea, and Steven Strauss. They work well together and easily fall into a mountain music groove. A fiddled "Babe" opens the project, and good liner notes tell us that this is the first tune Thompson learned some three decades ago from an East Texas Serenaders record. Piano and voice are the featured instruments on Bessie Smith's "Frosty Morning Blues." Her renditions of "Red Apple Rag" and "Dickson County Blues" (from Arthur Smith), "Salt Lake City Blues" (from Cathie Whitesides), "California Blues" (from the Stripling Brothers) and "Blue Devil Blues" (from Clifford Hayes) are old-time, blues and jug band music at their best and would be great tunes of choice in fiddle contests. I would call Hank Bradley's "Teabag Blues" a hoedown, while the Romanian "Worried Yid" is actually a waltz. She also sings tales of dejection, destitution and melancholy from Victoria Spivey, Dock Boggs, Memphis Minnie, and her own title cut, "No Mockingbird."
Suzy Thompson's "No Mockingbird" presents an interesting dichotomy of blue mountain funk and fired up fiddle. I can tell that deep down inside Suzy's a sunbeam, and this album is clearly a pepper-upper.
From deejay Cary Allen Fields, WICR-FM (Indianapolis, IN):
What a wonderfully eclectic collection of tunes. I appreciate projects
that can't be pigeon-holed, genre-sized, and categorized in twenty
From deejay Dave Higgs, Nashville Public Radio:
Suzy Thompson's long awaited, much needed killer debut fills a huge void
in our kind of music - nobody has been doing much with these exuberant,
sometimes risqué, but always exciting old fiddle rags and country
blues tunes - and this project goes a long way towards remedying this
sorry state of musical affairs. The title track is worth the price of
admission by itself - a gut-wrenching,
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