Jazz vocalist Kelley Suttenfield takes on the songs of Neil Young


“When We Were Young – – Kelley Suttenfield Sings Neil Young” is the latest album from jazz singer, Kelley Suttenfield. The album will be available Sept. 13, 2019.

While most performers taking on the songs of iconic rock performer Neil Young have been rock musicians themselves, Suttenfield is a jazz singer with a little pop in her background. Thus, it is interesting to see, rather, hear, what she will do with some of Young’s most popular songs. Must-hear songs from the album include “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.”

“When We Were Young” is Suttenfield’s third album. Her debut album, “Where Is Love?” was released in 2009. The recording featured a mix of pop and jazz tunes.

“Heart of Gold” by Kelley Suttenfield

Suttenfield sounds right at home in Young’s songs from the 1970s. In her performances, the songs formerly brought to life by Young’s raspy forthright voice, are now gently rendered in Suttenfield’s warm register.

With the instrumentation playing behind her, Suttenfield’s voice comes to the forefront. With this arrangement, listeners can easily hear not only the words and their corresponding notes, but also the ideas and feeling behind each. For people who have taken Young’s songs for granted, Suttenfield’s jazz-oriented, almost sparse approach shows a new dimension to the tracks and will likely inspire a new appreciation.

“Old Man” by Kelley Suttenfield

Suttenfield closes the album with a disarming version of “Old Man.” Arguably one of the more moving of Young’s popular songs, that Suttenfield approaches it with emotive strings, especially in the beginning. Once the proverbial stage is set, listeners brace themselves to be blown away by the sheer beauty and power of this song. The lyrics are plaintive. In Suttenfield’s treatment, they are a lament, or a plea. The strings give way to the acoustic guitar and soft drums. The violins come back in the rear of the soundscape.

Suttenfield’s voice takes on a more rock-pop sound as the song builds. She keeps things interesting with unexpected high notes that contrast with the smokier qualities she exhibits. The song is an unexpected gem.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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