Suzzy Roche, who connected deeply with her fans for decades as part of the beloved folk group The Roches, will join her accomplished daughter, Lucy Wainright Roche, at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, March 18. The show was originally booked for March 2020 but postponed because of the pandemic.
Together, they make a stunning singing duo with haunting harmonies and poetic lyrics.
“I always look forward to playing in New Jersey, my home state,” said Suzzy Roche, who grew up in Park Ridge and now lives in New York.
In 2020, the two released an evocative and soulful album, I Can Still Hear You. Its songs are gentle and haunting, with lyrics that capture the feelings of desolation, isolation and gratitude some of us felt during the dystopian days of the pandemic. Their imaginative lyrics bring us to a dark but enlightened place.
Together they are incandescent onstage with distinctive, elegant harmonies and funny banter. I caught them at City Winery in New York recently and found their rapport with the audience unpretentious and remarkably personable.
They toured for about 10 days in the Midwest last fall “before everything shut down again, and it was very moving,” Suzzy said, adding that “for many people, it was their first show since the pandemic, so there was a special energy in the rooms.
“At my age, each show is precious. As the pandemic spread into two years, we were afraid we would never do shows again, so we’re grateful to get a chance to play. It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, and hopefully live music helps lift spirits. Our aim is to bring a bit of good cheer with us.”
We talked about balancing the excitement of live performances with concerns about COVID.
“I admit it, I can worry about everything, but I’m excited,” said Suzzy. “There’s nothing like a live performance. I’ve always been amazed that people come to shows. Seriously, it makes me cry — in a good way. When I was younger, I never got a chance to meet people in the audience, but now I like the fact that I can say hello after the show.”
The moving message of the I Can Still Hear You title track, written by Lucy, was captured in Lucy’s video featured below, with images of empty streets and closed stores, Zoom chats, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, hopeful red hearts and the bright arc of a rainbow.
Jane Geiser’s video (watch below) of the song “I Think I Am a Soul,” written by Suzzy, captures the weariness some of us have felt during the pandemic. With a spiritual and contemplative feel, the song follows its character “floating around 14th Street every day” and comes to the conclusion that “the soul that I am gets lonesome like a million others,” a feeling hard to avoid at times, especially during the isolation caused by the pandemic.
“Since we recorded I Can Still Hear You during the first year of the pandemic, it was almost like it never came out, so it’s particularly nice to get to play those songs for people,” Suzzy said. “But the show has a mixture of older songs and cover songs as well as songs from the new album. Pretty much whatever we feel like doing, I suppose.”
Lucy, whose father is Loudon Wainwright III, joined Suzzy on the road at a young age when The Roches toured, and has released five solo recordings. She released the 2013 album Fairytale and Myth with her mother, and they released a second joint album, Mud & Apples, in 2016.
“Most people can’t imagine going on tour with their mother or daughter, but oddly, we get along well and we have a blast most of the time,” said Suzzy. “What’s challenging is lifting the suitcases and lugging the guitars in and out of hotels and venues. Especially after two years off the road, we forgot that we are our own roadies.”
In 2018, Suzzy compiled a collection of songs written by her late, great sister, Maggie, titled Where Do I Come From: Selected Songs. (Maggie, who died in 2017, formed The Roches with Suzzy and their sister Terre). She included a previously unreleased song written by Maggie on I Can Still Hear You titled “Jane” that contains an intriguing line, suggesting gratitude when things are bad, and caution when things are good: “It’s like remembering rain in the sun, or remembering sun in the rain.”
I devoured Suzzy’s 2020 novel “The Town Crazy,” which is well-crafted with compelling characters and touches on passion, the pain of disappointing marriages, the destructiveness of gossip and the fragility of childhood. She previously penned the novel “Wayward Saints” and the children’s book “Want to Be in a Band?”
Given recent shocking news events, “Ruins,” from I Can Still Hear You, would make for a chilling number at their concert. In it, a boy “lifted his leg and boot and stomped upon the roses” in a garden and also “took out the pansies,” making the woman who tended these flowers cry. The duo gently sings:
Why’s the human heart so mean,
To do the things that we do?
I don’t want to ruin anything.
The Outpost in the Burbs presents Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche at the First Congregational Church at 40 S. Fullerton Ave. in Montclair, March 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets purchased for the original date in 2020 will be honored. Visit outpostintheburbs.org.
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