American Folk Songbook by Suzy Bogguss

Suzy Bogguss has proven herself to be one of country’s most versatile artists, tackling a variety of styles including vintage Americana, hymns and what-have-you as a sometime musical sidekick to A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor.

Keillor’s brand of nostalgia informs Suzy’s 17-track American Folk Songbook, which compiles songs you know so well that you may not remember how you know them. These are mostly folk tunes in the truest sense—“Red River Valley,” “Sweet Betsy From Pike” and other chestnuts handed down over generations—which Suzy dusts off with care, offering a casual overview of American history much like Kathy Mattea did on her somewhat weightier Coal collection (although several tunes derive from European and other bloodlines despite being touted as American songs).

Highlights include “Shenandoah,” on which she wrings every ounce of longing from the oft-recorded number, aided by a winsome harmonica. Singing with heart and simplicity, Suzy covers the bases from whimsical to melancholy, and while there’s nothing new to be heard here, that’s precisely the point.

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