Suzanna Choffel has put together a solid combination of pop, soul, and jazz on her new record Steady Eye Shaky Bow. The Austin native uses her strong voice and unique song writing to produce a nice mix of pop soul and jazz. Choffel barely has to try. Her smokey voice lays down comfortably over every song on the album and her complicated intertwined word play flows beautifully with her accompanying music. It is a good album.
On the opening track, “Archer”, Choffel and her band explore a dizzying jazz sound with multiple time and tempo changes. The song starts with disjointed piano and guitar which are quickly herded by the drums and set into motion. Choffel’s voice tackles the ever moving track with ease. When tempos change, she pounces on top of them like a lion cub playing with her prey. Though she sings about the upsetting departure of an unaware lover, she seems strong. She is always in complete control.
The albums standout track is “Raincloud”, a dixieland jazz tune about a girl and her constant sadness. This song is almost impossible not to tap your foot to. Choffel employs one of New Orleans best jazz bands, Big Sams Funky Nation, to help out. With snappy synth and an exploding horn section, the song embodys new Dixieland. Somehow Choffel takes this hundred year old sound and makes it her own. The trombone screams, the drum taps away, the synthesizer dances, but most of all Choffel makes all of these elements secondary with her voice. Her words of secrets and rain coat the track with a smooth consistency. This is her song. She uses the music to get you dancing, and half way through the song you realize you are singing along. You barely notice the awesome trombone work accompanying her.
As the album continues, it just gets more comfortable like sinking into a big old leather chair. The songs calm down and become easier to keep up with. The first couple of tracks are constantly shifting and moving. The album then becomes remove extra word more natural and lets Choffel’s lyrics and whiskey coated voice take over. The influence of Stax Records and Motown are undeniable. The smooth guitar stays subtle. The drums whisper and let the rest of the band take over. It is on these songs that Choffel hits her stride. It is clear that Choffel’s blue soul is stronger than her pop voice. Tracks like “Animal” and “Hot Shot” are flowing and almost peaceful. Choffel’s metaphors are well played and consistent. People are animals, love is a game. She really knows what she is doing.
Choffel is a hell of a song writer. Steady Eye Shaky Bow makes this very clear. This is good music for a lady in a convertible. It would be great for driving around with the top down on a beautiful spring day. It is good music to tell yourself you don’t need your ex-boyfriend. If I were a thirty year old nurse, I think this would be my favorite album of the year. Choffel’s voice and lyrics are powerful. Listening to her makes you feel empowered. She conveys charisma and charm in every verse. This album is damn near impossible not to like.