[COUNTRY-ISH] Susannah “Little Sue” Weaver grew up in West Virginia and, amid the late-’90s No Depression boomlet, was arguably the Portland face of y’allternative. “I’d never heard country until I moved out here,” Weaver says. “I certainly didn’t plan on doing alt-country to make it big. But, listening to the songwriting, country seemed so honest and straightforward.”
Her fifth album, Baby Knows Better, to be released the weekend of her 38th birthday (and featuring her 4-year-old son, Vaden, on the cover artwork) certainly doesn’t consign itself to any one sound. Blessed with Weaver’s uniquely gorgeous and utterly distinct vocals—imagine a slightly accented Juliana Hatfield transforming to Emmylou Harris midnote—that allow a deceptively sparse production and hook-drenched songwriting without sacrificing personality, Baby Knows Better successfully transcends genre. “I never had a formula,” Weaver says. “Crow, my second record, was very pop, no solos. My first record had 13 people soloing on one song!”
It’s easy to adopt a casual mutability on such a well-produced album, but the vibrant eclecticism extends to her live shows. “I like playing my weekly gigs and having people come,” Weaver says. “That’s how I’ve made my living the last 10 years.” Weaver played the White Eagle every week for seven years with local songsmith Lynn Conover, and they continue fortnightly performances at the LaurelThirst. Meanwhile, Weaver has been branching out with other groups. She’s recently joined Casey Neill’s Norway Rats and Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck’s Minus 5 (much as anyone “joins” that group), and has just started working with glam-smacked rock outfit From Words to Blows alongside Amelia’s Jesse Emerson and the Decemberists’ Jenny Conlee-Drizos. “That’s my first foray into playing bass,” Weaver says. “I’m taking lessons. Y’know, I don’t like KINK, but I’m afraid I’m getting more KINK-like as I get older, which is why it’s so exciting to play with Jesse and with Casey.”
“In my early career, I appealed to different kinds of music fans. People would say, ‘I never liked country till I listened to you.’ I started moving away from the alt-country, but my songwriting, my choice of instruments, the people I like to play with, that all has country influence. I still think it’s the most honest and straightforward, the most emotionally accessible music.”
SEE IT: Little Sue’s CD-release show is Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Mission Theater with Casey Neill and the Norway Rats, and From Words to Blows. 8 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.