“Singin’ a song / Cardinal on the fence / Time on my hands / Since I, I don’t know when” croons Mia Suzanne Walker in the opening lines of her song “Passing Me By,” one of the ten comprising Suzanne’s Band’s new album Back to You, her every word echoing the emotion in the melodies behind her. For Walker, every verse is an opportunity to connect with the audience on a musical and spiritual level, and in her latest release Back to You, she rejects the very notion of adhering to one specified set of rules when it comes to making an evocative harmony all the more rousing. She’s following the beat of her own drum here, and exceeding the expectations surrounding the creation of a follow-up to her debut, Breathe.
Vocal harmonies are the undebatable centerpiece for every song on Back to You, but I wouldn’t say that they overshadow the instrumental bedrock of tracks like “Look Up,” “Don’t Give Up Yet” and “Fault in My Stars” at all; actually, the exact opposite. Walker wants us to understand the depth of the narrative in all of these songs, and by investing so much in the relationship between her voice and the backing band, she makes it impossible for us to experience a lyric without feeling the emotion integrated with the music as well. She’s as multidimensional a songwriter as they come, but she isn’t getting overambitious in Back to You – instead, she’s recording the kind of material that best suites her skillset.
There’s more instrumental contrast in “On a Good Day,” “Don’t Give Up Yet,” “I Almost Said I Do” and “Gonna Rise Up” than there was in the whole of the first extended play we heard from Suzanne’s Band, Breathe (released in 2018), and it would surprise me a great deal if I were the only critic to notice as much. If Walker was trying to redefine her identity with a multifaceted attack in Back to You, she essentially hit this one out of the park and then some, because from every angle that I’ve analyzed it, she seems to be going out of her way to make each element within her style of play stand out and affect the mood of any given composition as much as producers would her cornerstone attributes.
If you’re looking for the perfect mix of homespun, old fashioned country crooning and contemporary folk/pop aesthetics in a single cocktail, you’re going to want to add Suzanne’s Band’s Back to You to your record collection a lot sooner than later. With the assistance of her ably-chosen cast of supporting players, Mia Suzanne Walker is contributing a color to indie folk music that had been mostly absent from the genre in the early and mid-2010’s, and now that the 2020’s are finally upon us, I think we’re going to see her come into her own in ways that had only been teased in her early efforts. I’ll be keeping an eye on her growth, and I’d recommend music fans everywhere think about doing the same.