Kelley SuttenfieldSings Neal Young
The album includes some of Young’s most famous songs, as well as a couple written but never performed by him. Tackling songs that are long associated with the pop legend is an audacious endeavor; however, this is not a tribute album. Suttenfield and her collaborator and arranger, guitarist Tosh Sheridan have created interpretations that are fresh & personal.
Suttenfield is a regular on the New York jazz scene and performs at various venues around the East Coast. On WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, Suttenfield brought on board a rhythm section of three top New York-based musicians who make up the group named (718), an electric trio groove music band that blends modern and creative jazz-inspired improvised music. The members of (718) provide the perfect blend of jazz and rock sensibilities. Members of THE MEMLING ENSEMBLE, a musical partnership of Metropolitan Opera Orchestra musicians that has been concertizing in various configurations for over twenty years, provide strings on several tunes. These renditions of Young’s tunes are accessible & appealing, and the musicianship on this album is stellar, but the real stars of the project are Suttenfield’s sensual, emotive voice and Sheridan’s evocative arrangements. It’s not easy taking on songs that are so closely identified with a seminal artist like Neil Young. Suttenfield and Sheridan impress by staying true to originals while imbuing them with their own personalities and artistry.
Jazz Music Archives Review
Kelley Suttenfield-When We Were Young
Right now Kelley Suttenfield’s “When We were Young” is my number one pick for sleeper surprise masterpiece for this year, and unfortunately, its also an album that may fly under the radar and be missed by many who would enjoy it because she is not yet well known. On paper the idea of a female jazz singer covering the songs of Neil Young looks like the sort of thing that could go wrong in many directions. Do we really want to hear Neil’s classics treated to adventurous chord substitutions, metric modulation or scat vocalizing. Of course we don’t, and thankfully you won’t find any of that on Kelley’s sublime covers of both well known and somewhat obscure Neil Young compositions. Sattenfield and her small backing group keep things cool and relaxed and don’t try too hard to make the songs more ‘jazzy’, although it should be no surprise that many of Young’s songs are very similar to classic pop jazz tunes in the first place, particularly “Fool for Your Love”. It also helps that Kelley’s band mates all have diverse backgrounds and can dish out the country, folk and rock licks that are needed to keep Young’s songs sounding ‘real’.
One of the first things you may notice about Suttenfield’s interpretations of Neil’s lyrics is that she never changes his words to fit her gender. All of the lyrics that Young sings about his relationship with women remain as is which creates a very interesting atmosphere in which we are hearing Neil’s thoughts from a curiously feminine side of himself. If she had changed the words the album would be much less mesmerizing in its exploration of Young’s yearnings for his ‘better half’. In some ways the album sounds like Young’s lover has discovered his personal diary and is reading his thoughts out loud to herself.
The arrangements on here are outstanding, deceptively simple, but always serving the song, not the musicians. A string trio is used economically here and there and the keyboards and guitar engage in occasional short solos to help build momentum. Kelley’s vocal delivery is very much of the ‘cool’ school, but on songs like “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “Down by the River” she belts out some emotional chorus buildups. “When We were Young” has so much crossover potential and if given some decent promotion could find fans in the worlds of folk, country, pop, vocal jazz and classic rock. Do give this one a try, its probably better than what you are expecting.
Album Review: When We Were Young from Kelly Suttenfield
Album: When We Were Young
Artist: Kelley Suttenfield
Singer Kelley Suttenfield offers her renderings of some of Neil Young’s most notable tunes on her recording When We Were Young, featuring the Memling Ensemble String Trio on a selection of tracks. Produced and arranged by guitarist Tosh Sheridan, songs refurbished with orchestral elements by the Trio give them a new look and feel. Suttenfield’s own timbres are very much the female counterpart to Neil Young’s gravelly bristles, possessing a similar folksy tone with smoother strokes and caressing motions.
Her treatment of “The Losing End” is adorned in country twange trimmings accompanied by her vocal phrasing that sits comfortably on the bobbing knolls of the rhythm section. “Flying on the Ground” is anchored by light-footed drumbeats rotating around the silky guitar strings bowing softly around Suttenfield’s vocals, imbuing the track with a feminine touch. The heavy tone of “The Needle and the Damage Done” exudes a sense of torment, contrasting the elevating ethers of the string arrangements lifting “Harvest Moon” and “Heart of Gold.”
County tooling, folk textures, and orchestral parings come together beautifully on “Down by the River,” showcasing Suttenfield’s flexible register, fitting agreeably with the synthesis of musical natures. Saving the finest for last, Suttenfield’s interpretation of “Old Man” is moving, evoking emotions in the listener and personalizing the song. Her vocal inflections possess a haunting quality indicative of the song’s creator Neil Young.
Suttenfield’s re-imaginings of some of Neil Young’s most notable songs give the tunes a new look and feel, a feminine touch. The graceful gait of her voice gives the tracks a slow and steady tempo that is pleasing and sentimental to audiences.
Kelley Suttenfield – vocals
Tosh Sheridan – guitars and back up vocals
Matthew Fries – piano and Fender Rhodes
Phil Palombi – double bass
Eric Halvorson – drums and percussion
The Memling Ensemble String Trio are:
Derek Ratzenboeck – violin
Vincent Lionti – viola
David Calhoun – cello