Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Fuller Pictures: Susanna On Her Favourite Albums

Susanna guides Eoin Murray through 13 favourite albums, from Joni Mitchell to Leonard Cohen, Janet Jackson to Bonnie Prince Billy and Bjork

If there is one thing that is at once apparent when examining Susanna Wallumrød’s impressive back-catalogue it is that she has an immense respect for the notion of songs and songwriting as a shared tradition. Over the course of nine albums and many more collaborations (e.g. Jenny Hval) and contributions besides, the Norwegian songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has time and again shown herself to be an artist who treats lyricism, songcraft and interpretation with the sort of care that, somehow, has become a rare practice. Where in so many contemporary instances the act of storytelling or evocation through song feels shallow and directionless, Susanna’s careful approach in her own songwriting and in her myriad selection of choice covers always gives the track and its history due reverence.

Take her new album Go Dig My Grave , released on her own SusannaSonata label. On it, she works alongside Swiss baroque harp player Giovanna Pessi, accordion player Ida Hidle and folk singer Tuva Syvertsen to produce a collection of 10 re-interpretations of songs that range from old English folk ballads to Lou Reed and Joy Division cuts. As with her previous cover efforts (examples including a sparse, haunting rendition of ‘Jolene’), Susanna brings a distinct, singular identity to these interpretations, a precise melancholy that is immediately recognisable as her own while still providing a more than suitable homage to their origins. In doing so, she traces the thread that courses through the lineage of personal, confessional songwriting and shows us that though the feelings expressed throughout the history of the tradition may be ever-changing in appearance, there are fundamental truths at the core that are always ready to be embraced, either with the help of another’s words or with one’s own.

The same idea is quickly noted when looking at the list of 13 albums she selects for her Baker’s Dozen, a collection of records from artists who have, for the most part at least, cemented themselves as performers whose treatment of songwriting and delivery outweighs anything else. Here we find albums by folk singers, pop and R&B performers and multifaceted visionaries whose words and productions are defined by their unabashed honesty and poetry, by their grappling with humanity in a way that history has repeatedly shown to be innate.

Just as in numerous instances on these albums, the respective artists re-interpret the songs of others to embellish the overall purpose of their own body of work. Susanna places these albums at milestones in her life and happily remembers times when she has covered them herself, or drawn influence from their sound. In discussing these albums which so clearly hold a pivotal position in the canon of late 20th century songwriting, and noting how they have been lived in by this artist as much as they have lived in her, it’s hard to deny Susanna’s own role in this most human of traditions.

Susanna’s new album Go Dig My Grave’ is out on 9th February. Click the image of Susanna below to begin reading her selections

First Record

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