In her Close Up series, Suzanne Vega is releasing new acoustic recordings of songs from the span of her career. The latest, People and Places, follows the first volume: Love Songs. States of Being and Songs of Family are upcoming. People and Places includes “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka” among others. “The Queen and the Soldier” shows how violence comes from denying need. “Angel’s Doorway” recounts the burden of a policemen stationed at the site of the World Trade Center, who protects his wife by leaving his clothes at the door with “those things he’s seen.” Although Vega is often interested in marginal perspectives, she doesn’t comfort herself with ideological self justification or accusations. Instead, she sees interested in the meaning of things.
Suzanne Vega conveys the moment as the sign of something greater, inviting the listener to discover the beauty and promise of fleeting time. “Ironbound/Fancy Poultry” tells the story of a woman who longs for something more as she looks at a ring that’s out of her budget. A vendor’s cry is the refrain:
"Fancy poultry parts sold here.
Breasts and thighs and hearts.
Backs are cheap and wings are nearly free"
For Vega, the banal hawking of meat may well express the cry of the human heart. Or a boy ringing a church bell could remind you of loss, as it does in the song “In Liverpool.”
“He sounds like he's missing something
Or someone that he knows he can't
Have now and if he isn't
I certainly am
Homesick for a clock
That told the same time
Suzanne Vega challenges us to discover signs in the moment, signs that may indicate an absence, or if pursued all the way to its origin, may reveal an even greater presence awaiting us.
reprinted from Traces 1, 2011