The Space Lady, Greatest Hits

Paul Connolly

By Paul Connolly

on 11.20.13 in Reviews

Susan Dietrich is a nursing aide instructor in a small town in Colorado, midway between Denver and Santa Fe. Among the interests listed on her LinkedIn page are birding, nature and wildlife, and “the health benefits of a plant-based diet.” Ms Dietrich really couldn’t sound much more suburban. Except that Dietrich has, for 30 years or so, also been the Space Lady, an “outsider” musician and busker regularly namechecked alongside the likes of Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis.

Casio-toned renditions of old pop and showbiz standards

Dietrich’s schtick is Casio-toned renditions of old pop and showbiz standards — if they have a tangential space reference for this firm believer in all things extra-terrestrial, all the better.

This collection was originally out in 1990 as a cassette-only release and there’s no hiding the amateurish nature of the recordings. Dietrich’s wispy voice floats high above the rudimentary but slightly otherworldly instrumentation (think The Twilight Zone circa 1960), a combination that works best on the more unlikely covers. The old cowboy classic, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” for instance, positively zings with invention while Dietrich’s take on Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” sounds like Young Marble Giants on an out-of-control running machine.

Also hugely successful is the reverb-drenched “Fly Like an Eagle,” which is spectral and woozy, and cleverly emphasizes the psyched-out bliss of Steve Miller’s original whilst jettisoning the four-square rock of which Miller was too fond.

And if you ever want to really disorient an old rocker, Dietrich’s frankly bonkers reading of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” all shimmering Casio-tones and excited yelps, will have them tugging at their pony tail in bugged-out confusion. We’re in deep space, man.