Susannah Weaver aka Little Sue releases “New Light”

Meanwhile in other Portland arts and culture worlds…

Portland folk singer and acoustic rocker extraordinaire Susannah Weaver, otherwise known as Little Sue, is back.

And she has given the waiting world another gorgeous, gentle, wryly beautiful record.

Featuring Mike Coykendall (drums, bass), Jenny Conlee-Drizos (piano, accordion), Jill Coykendall (clarinet), Annalisa Tornfelt (vocals, violin), Miss Michael Jodell (vocals), Wendy Pate (vocals), and of course Sue (vocals, ukulele, guitar), “New Light” has been released to a circle of supporters on Kickstarter, which helped fund production and mastering costs. It will be more widely available at some point soon, with all sales going to charity.

Little Sue rides again.
Little Sue rides again.

The album was recorded in November and features 10 new songs covering Sue’s home range themes of love, midlife, unapologetic silliness, and always, no matter what, hopeful enthusiasm for the road ahead. And elephants. As in, elephants in the room, of which more than a few have been identified this go round.

It’s been a few years (five I believe) since we had a record from Little Sue. “I had no idea if I would ever write songs again”, said Weaver. “These songs showed up this summer like people with personalities all their own. I just tied their shoes, straightened hair and ties, changed a shirt or two.”

Little Sue may have only sent these songs on their way, from wherever songs come from, but they bear her unmistakable imprint and sound. A fixture on the Portland scene for 20 years and originally from West Virginia, Sue has a soaring voice that could pierce the hide of a humvee. Never has a woman this small made so much beautiful sound.

And she can write like a poet. The strongly acoustic instrumentation on “New Light”, and especially the presence of a delicate clarinet and ukulele duet, showcases Sue’s forte – the close up, humorous, almost whispered tale of love found and misplaced. Not lost.

Weaver has a world all her own, one where love somehow disappears in an instant, where wild nights on rooftops lead to waking up in back yards with mismatched clothing, where the little kids still hiding inside us big grownups have a knack for popping out at the exact wrong moment.

A few highlights:

In “History Mystery”, heartbreak and falling out is center stage. Things get messy, but they keep going on. Like they will. Like history.

When ties came to sever
the words that came so clever
I no longer could employ
I no longer could enjoy

It was the love of me and you
That made life come shining through
It makes us who we are right now
We’ll have to work with that somehow

Few things are perfect when it comes to relationships in a Little Sue song. There’s often a sense of duct tape and bailing wire keeping the rig on the road for one more day, and that’s enough. But we can learn from our mistakes, when we are ready to.

A song about a wayward and substance-challenged someone, “Find Yourself” starts right off with the usual Weaver tongue in cheek:

You have the distinction
Of nearing your extinction

Yup. If something don’t change soon, one change is certain to come. So what’s the solution? It’s time to get real and find something – anything – to do.

You have one affliction
And that’s your addiction
Sometimes you laugh and say it’s all in fun
You know you have to change the pace
And look yourself right in the face
And try to stop being on the run

You don’t have to bet it all
Or shop at the Big and Tall
You don’t have to blast yourself out into space
You don’t have to sing the blues
You don’t have to wear those shoes
You just have to find yourself a better place

In “Elephant in the Room”, all those unacknowledged issues are taking up a heck of a lot of space.

There’s an elephant in the room tonight
Because of you
There’s an elephant in the room tonight
Maybe two

“The Back Forty” is a lovely, lilting, circus style tune about “that thing”, i.e., love – which can sometimes seem like something you’d see at the circus. Especially if you’re north of 40.

Well, I guess I’ve had a little
Just enough to make me brittle
Of that thing
They tell me not to worry,
Not to be in any hurry
There’s this thing

In the Back Forty we’ll find love
In the back, forty little turtledoves

The closing song “New Light” is an appeal to a close friend to try and somehow get it together.

Listen to it here.

Jesus Christ when did it get so hard?
You’re up, and then you’re drunk sleeping in the yard
You don’t even know who’s sleeping next to you
And when you look again, hey it’s only you

You’re feeling bad and it just won’t quit
It’s your birthday suit but it just won’t fit
It’s your things and stuff but someone else’s shit
And then you find

A new light is gonna shine
Another day is gonna come
Another moon another sun
It’s coming right down the line
A new light is gonna shine

Indeed.

And the Little Sue light is shining bright once again.