Double CD offers two sides of Ragsdale
Reviewed November 2010
Best Regards / Less of the Same
By Suzi Ragsdale
Clyde Records: 2010
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Americana singer/songwriter Suzi Ragsdale has been a backup harmony singer in country bands for decades. The daughter of Ray Stevens ("Everything Is Beautiful," "The Streak" and numerous others) is a Nashville native who has been a longtime member of Darrell Scott's band, also has played with Guy Clark, recorded with Verlon Thompson and appeared as a studio backup singer on dozens of albums by established country stars.
She released a solo disc in 1998, and now has released a double album, "Best Regards" and "Less of the Same."
The two are six-song discs, packaged together but meant to be listened to separately. The traits both discs have in common are the contributions of top-shelf Nashville session players, with producer Tim Lauer much in evidence, and Ragsdale's voice. She is a pro whose voice fits these songs not flawless, not overwrought.
The tunes on "Best Regards" are all Ragsdale originals, sung by her alone. There is a pop flavor to many of the songs, and less of a country vibe. Ragsdale takes on a wide range of topics and tells stories as the music ranges from acoustic guitar and strings for the excellent "Virginia" to strings and orchestration for "Two on a Tightrope," which tells of a romantic collapse framed as a circus act. The title track scores a memorable keyboard lick, well-realized by the arrangement as Ragsdale cheerfully sings "I'm not your friend, not your wife / But hey, best regards to those who are."
"Less of the Same" may say a lot with the title, in that this disc seems to be more like the music that Ragsdale has been making in the past. She seems to be part of a country band on many of these tracks, sharing the vocal spotlight with Gabe Dixon and Rodney Crowell in duets. This doesn't diminish the music, though, as this disc rocks much more than "Regards" and there are some good songs. "My One and Only Valentine" is the best country song on either disc and a clear highlight. The title cut is an edgy rocker from her days with Thompson that has guitar and organ tracks piled high, but somehow doesn't sound over-produced. "Pay Attention" is a piano ballad that clicks, and "Take It Easy" stays in a country-folk groove to close the disc out with a catchy, light tune.
"Best Regards" and "Less of the Same" actually sound fine when played back to back, and though they represent two sides of Suzi Ragsdale the artist, the music all works. They would make a very good 12-track disc, but two 6-track discs are fine, too.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.