Having not heard any of Norweigan singer-songwriter Susanna’s original music, it’s especially jarring to hear the opening of her cover of “Jailbreak” by Thin Lizzy, which leads off Flower Of Evil. Susanna’s approach to this and all of the songs on this album of mostly covers is very minimal and somber. An interesting take to say the least, but does that make any of this good?
Considering Susanna’s incredible voice, she probably picked the right direction. The accompaniment is mostly piano and organ with some light drumming, although when noisy guitars are introduced, they imbue the songs with a haunted energy. It all comes back to Susanna’s voice though. She’s such a powerful and amazing singer she almost evokes Streisand. She can definitely move you like Streisand moved your mother.
The song choices are strange and scattershot to say the least. “Jailbreak” is interesting enough, but when you add Prince, ABBA, Sabbath, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy to that list, it becomes straight-up weird. All of the songs, regardless of what they originally sounded like, are performed in Susanna’s wheelhouse, which creates some predictable moments in some places and spectacular ones in others.
No doubt the most impressive performance here is the cover of legendary Badfinger sapfest, “Without You.” Will Oldham guests on this one and the aforementioned Thin Lizzy cover (but not on the cover of his own song?), and the two make a song that probably annoys the shit out of you sound far more desperate and defeated than Pete Ham ever did, which is ironic considering he killed himself. (Too soon?)
There are a couple originals on the album, and they verify that she is a capable and competent songwriter, but the covers are the stars of the show here. Susanna took a bunch of songs you probably know, a few of which you most likely can’t stand, and made them her own, and that is what makes Flower Of Evil so impressive.