SWINGIN' SUZY

Suzy Bogguss goes out on a limb with a new noncountry album of swing music

Nineties hitmaker Suzy Bogguss is back with a new album, Swing, that she says is literally a dream come true.

"I had a dream I was backstage at an awards show with [Asleep at the Wheel frontman] Ray Benson and I had a run in my hose," says Suzy. "Then he was driving me around the streets of San Francisco so I could find a new pair of hose. It was scary stuff -- we were zooming up and down the hills!"

When she woke up, Suzy couldn't get the images out of her head.

The next day her husband, songwriter/producer Doug Crider, offered an explanation of her dream. "He said it means you have to make a record with Ray and it's going to be scary," says Suzy, "but you have to trust him!"

So the next morning, Suzy called Ray.

"He was thrilled at the idea of working together," exclaims Suzy. "We've known each other a long time. I used to open for Asleep at the Wheel years ago, before I moved to Nashville."

The next step was to decide what songs to include on the record. Or more specifically, what kind of songs.

"I'm so eclectic -- or schizophrenic -- with my music!" laughs Suzy. "I have this cowgirl side, then a sort of folky, country-rock section. Then there's the swing side."

Due to her early '90s string of hits including "Drive South" and "Hey Cinderella," fans mostly know Suzy's country side. But her swing side recently pushed to the forefront.

"I was absorbed in Nat King Cole and these combo-type records where there's this band playing and you hear little mistakes and you get the feeling that you're listening to a live recording," she says.

Armed with new songs written by April Barrows, a songwriter she met while recording her 2001 Christmas album, and several classics from Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday, Suzy met with Ray. "He said, 'Whoa, Suze! This is really different!' " she laughs.

But the two plunged forward and headed to Austin to record the songs. In the Lone Star State the album took an unexpected turn.

"Originally I thought this was going to be Suzy Bogguss with Asleep at the Wheel," she notes. "But as I got tighter with the songs I realized it was Suzy Bogguss with the band as players. Ray was so tuned in to what I was looking for. He agreed -- this is a singer's record."

It's almost a cliché for a singer to say "I made this record for myself." But for Suzy, it's absolutely true. "I like to have little dinner parties and play music like this," says Suzy. "So, that's what I was doing -- making my perfect cocktail soundtrack."

But now that Swing is finished, Suzy knows she'll have little time to entertain at home. Most of her entertaining will be on the road. "That's OK with me!" she exclaims. "I've been jonesing to perform more."

Suzy is glad that her two favorite guys -- her husband and her 8-year-old son, Ben -- will tag along when she hits the road this summer. "It's great to have them with me," she beams. "Because when school starts, I'll go back to mostly just touring on weekends."

During her downtime with Ben, Suzy barely gets a chance to play her music at all.

"He loves pop oldies!" laughs Suzy. "He listens to The Beach Boys or The Beatles, which cracks me up because that's usually something I don't listen to. He's really full of beans! It makes me happy because he's his own person."

Even though Ben is striving to find his own identity, he and mom still have a lot in common. "I try to do things with him like go Rollerblading," says Suzy. "I do my aerobic activity with him, and we go swimming all the time."

Ben seems like a pretty upbeat kid despite Suzy's insistence that she is a "mean mom." "I won't let him have Game Boy and things like that because he's such an amazing reader," says Suzy. "He reads at the 7th grade level in 2nd grade. I want to keep him like that. So I ration his TV viewing, too."

Recently Ben did manage to wear his mom down on one thing -- getting a puppy!

"My best friend recently had a baby and my son was looking at me going, 'Mom?' " remembers Suzy. "So I said, 'How about a puppy?!' "

Now she's the one getting up in the middle of the night to tend to Zoey, their new Havanese pup. "That's OK," she laughs. "I'm a light sleeper."

At least she won't be losing any sleep over her new record. Swing, she says, is mellow. "This is much more casual music, more spontaneous," she explains. "I wanted it to feel like I was just out playing live someplace. Every cut is up and fun and happy.

"It's full of love songs -- and that's the best thing you can sing about."

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