By Eric Alper.
Sue Foley’s new acoustic solo album, One Guitar Woman is a moving tribute to the female pioneers of guitar, the women whose music and lives delivered the inspiration and paved the way for those that followed. Sue honours artists spanning a whole spectrum of styles.
She writes in her liner notes, “They were massively talented, and they all possessed courage and vision which transformed both their cultures and the story of the guitar.”
True to the album title, Sue performs all these songs with one guitar. While many of Sue’s fans are used to seeing her playing “Pinky,” her pink paisley Fender Telecaster through her Fender Bassman amp, for this album she chose a nylon-string acoustic guitar, a flamenco Blanca made by master luthier Salvadore Castillo, purchased by Sue on a 2022 excursion to Paracho, Mexico.
The first single, available now, is “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie”, a delicately nuanced track from Elizabeth Cotten.
Sue captures the playful yet plaintive tone of the original, but doesn’t imitate the voice of Cotten, who didn’t record until she was quite elderly. Sue sings in her own voice, which is strong and vibrant. "‘Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie’ is one of my favorite songs to play on guitar,” says Sue. “I just love that Piedmont fingerpicking that was made famous by the incomparable, Elizabeth Cotten. Cotten had an original guitar style, as she played left-handed and upside down, so her songs are not easy to tackle. She also had such charm and character in her voice, and wit in her lyrics. Her songs can be challenging to learn but they're always so fun and satisfying when you figure them out. This one just makes me smile every time I play it.”
One Guitar Woman also covers the hard-driving Memphis Minnie and icons like Maybelle Carter and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as well as heroes like French classical guitarist Ida Presti, Tejano sensation Lydia Mendoza, and the often-underrated Charo. Less well-known but equally compelling are Southern blues women Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas. All in all, the twelve tracks of this album pay deference to eight female guitarists.
Foley is a complete artist, and the album features her songwriting as well as her guitar playing and singing. “Maybelle’s Guitar,” is Sue’s original composition that incorporates Maybelle Carter’s signature “Carter Scratch” guitar style while telling the story of the vast influence and power of the Carter Family’s music. Lydia Mendoza’s Tejano classic “Mal Hombre” is performed in Spanish, and Foley contributes her own English-language verse, which is far superior to the translation.
The album includes two instrumentals: “Romance in A Minor” by virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini is derived from guitarist Ida Presti’s interpretation. Sue’s version is heart-rending. Also featured is the explosive flamenco “La Malagueña”, popularized by Charo.
The full album will be released worldwide on March 29, 2024 on Stony Plain Records.
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