Holy Smokes

Suzzy Roche

(RHR CD 104)

Red House Records, Inc.
P O Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104 USA

A review for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Henry Koretzky


After three decades of sisterly harmony as part of the Roches, Suzzy Roche takes a step into the spotlight with the first full- length solo recording by one of the three Roche sisters. (Perhaps this balances the scales for the album that Terre & Maggie Roche recorded years ago, Seductive Reasoning.) Fans of the band needn't worry, however. The band is still going strong, and Suzzy's debut CD, Holy Smokes, features more of the quirky melodies and distinctively off-center lyrics that have endeared listeners to the Roches' music for so long.

Without the blanketing effect of those rich sisterly harmonies, Suzzy's voice stands out more singularly as both a singer and a songwriter. Her range as a composer on this release is remarkably diverse, bouncing from the upbeat romantic resilience of My Broken Heart and the fear-driven muse of Lightning Storm to the mournful strains of "Losing" and the haunting tale of an unnamed indiscretion, ABC's. Vocally, her singsong timing and melodic swoops and slides complement her lyrics, maintaining the sense of a childlike power of open observation filtered [but not censored] through a mature perspective.

The arrangements have their appealing twists as well--David Mansfield's banjo lightens up the canine caroling of Crash, and Suzzy's own overdubbed inner voice adds a nice touch to Pink Ballet Slippers. Charlie Giordano's accordion brings nice tone colors to Losing and Eggshell (the latter a song based on a poem by Jude Roche.) Speaking of family ties, Maggie Roche also guests on a pair of tracks, Rules and the title cut.

Devotees of the Roches will embrace the music on Holy Smokes, and those unfamiliar with their reputation should also be beguiled by Suzzy Roche's special way with her songs' images and melodies. As she sings on the closing track Two Bumps on a Log,

This kind of a story
Has no snazzy end
It's in the telling
You really need an ear to bend.

Edited by David N. Pyles

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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