Summer Arts Weekend: Suzanne Vega Not Alone in Celebrating Solitude

By Scott McLennan

July 23, 2012

Suzanne Vega (photo credit: Mary Rozzi.)

Even though she has a stack of new songs ready to record, Suzanne Vega isn’t quite done examining her past–a task she started in 2010 with the first volume of her four-part Close Up CD series.

The final Close Up, which like its predecessors will feature stripped-down acoustic versions of songs from earlier studio work, is due out by the fall. And Vega is also making a detour back into Solitude Standing, her breakout sophomore album that turns 25 this year.

Vega has three special Solitude celebrations lined up, the first one happening Saturday as part of the Summer Arts Weekend in Copley Square. The others are slated for City Winery in New York City and the Barbican in London.

Solitude Standing is Vega’s best-selling album, yielding the hits “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner.” It is also home to such concert staples as “Gypsy,” “Calypso,” and the title track.

“Some of these songs I’ve played solidly throughout my career; others fell by the wayside,” Vega says.

But listening to the CD before calling Vega at her New York City home, it was clear how well these songs have aged. Even the “wayside” numbers such as “Night Vision” and “Language” are disarming, with the sort of poetic and pointed lyrics that are Vega’s artistic signature. These are not so much “songs from the ’80s,” but rather a gateway into modern folk.

Vega says she wants to play the Solitude songs the way people remember them, so unlike the Close Up treatments given older tunes, she is working up this material with full arrangements. Drummer Dougie Yowell and bassist Mike Visceglia are back in the fold with Vega and her guitarist Gerry Leonard. And the prospect of collaboration with other musicians performing at Summer Arts or visiting the event was already percolating.

“Well, there’s going to a lot of horn players there, and they seem a natural for ‘Tom’s Diner.’ Being in Boston, I would like Evan Dando to come by–I like what he did with ‘Luka’–but I don’t think that’ll happen,” Vega says.

“Luka,” a chilling concoction of cheery melody couching disturbing lyrics about child abuse, wasn’t simply a hit for Vega, but a maturing moment for folk-pop in general paving the way for others to bring more mature themes to the radio and concert halls.

Solitude Standing will likely not be the only place Vega finds common ground at Summer Arts. The Low Anthem piques Vega’s interest, and she is pegging the Rhode Island folk-music innovators as cool collaborators for her version of the Grateful Dead’s “China Doll,” something she recorded for the Deadicated compilation album in 1991

“When I tour the U.S., people yell out for that song a lot,” she says.

And in Boston, she may just find the perfect way to serve it up.

Vega is scheduled to perform on the Summer Arts Weekend main stage at 7:30 P.M. Saturday and then in the Fairmont Copley’s Copley Club at 12:45 A.M.

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About the Author
Scott McLennan Scott McLennan
Scott McLennan is a music correspondent for the Boston Globe and former entertainment columnist for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. His work as taken him from the Newport Folk Festival to the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival and many musical points in between. Scott also writes about skiing for Hawthorn Publications.


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