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Susanna – Go Dig My Grave album review

Folk, skiffle... and Joy Division, reworked by the Norwegian jazz doyenne.


Over the years, Norwegian vocalist Susanna Wallumrød has perfected the art of achieving a lot while seemingly doing very little. Using the sparsest of instrumental settings, the searing purity of her voice, usually recorded without any significant post-production, creates an emotional space that’s rich in drama. Paring away any harmonic excess, her ability to find the poignant core of a song and bring to it new insights and narrative detail has the effect of rendering the old and familiar, striking and new. Thus, in this collection, traditional folk tunes such as Rye Whiskey, Go Dig My Grave, the chirpy skiffle-era hit Freight Train and even Joy Division’s Wilderness fit neatly together like a melancholic jigsaw, each piece underscored with a captivating, haunting stillness. The hesitant steps of Henry Purcell’s Cold Song are a reminder of Susanna and Swiss baroque harp player Giovanna Pessi’s breathtaking 2011 ECM release If Grief Could Wait, which contains a similarly eclectic tracklisting. Pessi’s delicate plucking weaves an intense web of notes against which Susanna’s plaintive tones resonate. Slow music it may be, but it’s never less than beautiful.