Susanna is none other than Susanna Wallumrod, a Norwegian singer born in 1979. I’d never heard of her until I came across this record, and I haven’t found any information on how it came about. There’s no label, and it was first sold at live concerts in 2009. There are two cover versions here, one from Buck Owens, a country guitar slinger from Texas, and the other from John Prine, the country bluegrass singer-songwriter from Illinois. That’s about all the facts I can muster up. Spin that record Bumstead…
(I’ll Love You) Forever And Ever… appears on the 1966 album by Buck Owens and the Buckaroo’s, Roll Out The Red Carpet. It’s pure country cornpone in the old style. You have to hear his enunciation on the words “forEVer and EVer.” It’s about as twangy as a country accent gets. The singer swears that he’ll love “you” forever and ever and proceeds to list various events that will precede his undying love such as the sun going supernova, the drying of the sea, and the man in the moon’s smile turning sour. Of course there’ll never be any other love for our righteous cowboy, you’re it baby, you’re it. One can only assume that removing the generic tackiness of the words was a worthy challenge for Susanna and Bonnie; they’ve done a good job replacing the mood with something more dreamy and convincing. They sing together in soft very close mic’d comforting tones before Bonny Billy takes up a solo line or two and then Susanna does the same. The only music here is a delicate acoustic guitar. Susanna has quite a ‘pure’ sounding soprano voice. In the break we get a few weird warped notes on electric guitar. As a duet with only acoustic guitar this really does render the song infinitely more sincere and affecting. It’s a bit ‘nice’ though for my tastes, and their voices don’t mix anywhere near as well as Oldham and McCarthy say, or Oldham and Webber, or Oldham and Mize. It’s pretty. Pretty forgettable. Oldham’s fragile tenor tends to get pushed aside by Susanna’s more powerful soprano.
In Spite Of Ourselves… is the real gem of the record. This could be first heard on John Prine’s 1999 album of the same name, performed with Iris Dement. He wrote the song for a movie. Bonnie and Susanna stay true to form and keep the song pretty much as it first sounded. It’s comedy-country with some brilliantly bawdy lyrics, but it’s a love song too. It would seem then that the two songs on this 7” have been especially chosen precisely for their diametrical opposition. However, in its own way, this is almost as corny as the A-side; its jokes are self aware, ergo this line: “She thinks all my jokes are corny.” Each singer, male and female, take turns announcing those demented things about each other that they secretly love—to wit: “She thinks crossing her legs is funny … / She gets it on like the Easter bunny / She’s my baby, I’m her honey / I’m never gonna let her go.” That’s Bonnie. Susannah takes up the next verse: “He ain’t got laid in a month of Sundays / I caught him once and he was sniffin’ my undies,” but of course, “He’s my baby, I’m his honey / Never gonna let him go.” It’s pretty funny, and horribly horribly catchy. Hence the title, “In spite of ourselves,” they’re gonna love each other right down to their worst foibles. Ah, how sweet. Again, we’ve got a single acoustic guitar with warm tones, and the recording is so close the voices almost burst out of the speakers. One funny thing though is that this style seems to bleed the comedy right out of the song, which, once again, makes it an improvement on the original. It’s as if by rendering these two songs in the most honest serious tones they can muster, they could rescue them from oblivion. I hate to say this, but I’m not such a fan of Susanna’s voice. I like Oldham when he’s duetting with a country singer, or Dawn McCarthy much more. “We’re gonna spite our noses / Right off of our faces / There won’t be nothin’ but big old hearts / Dancin’ in our eyes.” Yup.
So, again, this was really only produced to be handed out to those who came to the gigs I guess. It doesn’t seem terribly essential, but you have to admire the way Oldham can take these corny songs and pump some serious emotion into them. The next 7″ record in 2009 would be a split effort with Young Widows.