Suzanne Vega concludes her series of albums reexamining her songbook with Close-Up, Vol. 4: Songs of Family, and given the album's themes, it's appropriate that this is the most spare and intimate installment in this mostly acoustic series. These 14 songs all deal with familial relationships, albeit in many different ways, from a sly contemplation of her marriage ("Honeymoon Suite") to studying the emotional fallout of her divorce ("Soap and Water"), from meeting her biological father for the first time ("Pilgrimage") to revisiting the neighborhood where she grew up ("Ludlow Street"), while also finding room to celebrate her love for her daughter ("World Before Columbus") and the grim tale of another child whose relationship with her folks is not as rosy ("Bad Wisdom").
In 1985, singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega released her stunning self-titled debut album. 25 years and 7 million albums sold later, Suzanne is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation. Now Suzanne is reinterpreting a majority of her catalog in a close and personal manner, creating 4 new thematic albums that will be released over 2010-2011. States of Being has Suzanne revisiting her most haunting songs. Suzanne used to call these the "Mental Health" songs. They express a state of mind, but also more than that; Suzanne says, "they are descriptions of a place deep inside. Anyone can feel like the narrator in Penitent, or Cracking, depending on your mood". Vol. 3 also includes a brand new song, a collaboration with Duncan Sheik from Suzanne's upcoming play, "Carson McCullers Talks About Love".
Back in the mid-80s, when folk music was in the doldrums, a New York-based acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter was hailed as the scene's new saviour, thanks to her cool, classy songs and often highly personal lyrics. Whether "folk" was the right description for Suzanne Vega is of course debatable, for there were few traditional influences in much of her work, but she deservedly sold millions of albums and notched up hits with Luka and Tom's Diner..
The songs on Solitude Standing, Suzanne Vega's second album, had years listed beside them on the lyric sheet, so you could see that some of them dated back to 1978. But that bold admission heralded the album's triumph – its diversity was what made it so good…
Though early comparisons were made to Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega's true antecedents were Janis Ian and Leonard Cohen. Like Ian, she sings with a precise, frequently half-spoken phrasing that gives her lyrics an intensity that seems to suggest an unsteady control consciously held over emotional chaos. Like Cohen, Vega observes the world in poetic metaphor, her cold urban landscapes reflecting a troubled sense of love and loss.