Suzy Bogguss' high-profile tour with legendary guitarist Chet Atkins, which stopped at the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday night, may be just what she needs to move her up a notch commercially in the crowded field of female country singers.
Bogguss has long been stuck in that second line of country artists, looking up at the Rebas and Wynonnas. Though she has the talent to leap forward, she rarely gets the kind of fancy showcasing she's getting on this tour in support of "Simpatico," her duet album with Atkins.
While Bogguss certainly glistened in this very pleasing show, you could see what's been holding her back. Her style, as lilting and sensuous as it may be, doesn't seem that original. At times, you hear an echo of the Judy Collins of 20 years ago. Other times she's a bargain-basement Linda Ronstadt, with a high and lovely voice--just not as high or quite as lovely as Ronstadt's.
Still, Bogguss can be a knockout ballad singer. Her voice has that wistful ache needed to put across mournful ballads such as "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" and "Two Shades of Blue."
Bogguss and Atkins both had solo sets in addition to their duet performances. She was more impressive, though, working with Atkins, his subtle playing exquisitely complimenting her vocals.
An Atkins set is still a treat. Rather than looking for improvisational dazzle, you marvel at how such a low-key style can be so emotion-packed. Even at 70, Atkins still boasts a melodic touch that other guitarists would kill for.