By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Sep 25, 2007 at 7:26 PM

From the moment I heard the first few lines of the first song on Suzanne Vega's self-titled record, I was a fan. It was 1985, I was 14, and the only female singer-songwriters I knew were those piping from my mother's speakers: Cary Simon, Joan Baez, Helen Reddy.

But Vega's music was different -- edgy and poetic lyrics -- with a voice both girlish and womanly, a quality I would later love in so many others, notably Bjork, Karen Peris and Joanna Newsom.

In her latest effort, called "Beauty and Crime," Vega conjures up an upbeat collection of folk-torch songs to New York City. When I first read that the Big Apple was her muse for the new record, I instantly lowered my expectations. It reminded me too much of a "Sex In The City" episode five years ago called "I Heart New York" where Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) forgets about men for a moment and metaphorically types a love letter to NYC.

However, after listening to Vega's record just one time, I bagged my skepticism. There's something very familiar about "Beauty," especially since her voice is as pure and sweet as it was 20 years ago. In fact, "Edith Wharton's Figurines" could have been on the first record, right after "Small Blue Thing."

But the 11 songs on "Beauty & Crime" are far from recycled versions of "Marlene on the Wall." Vega continues to add instrumentation and technology to her alt-folk narratives, creating danceable tunes like "Unbound" and "Zephyr & I." Critics and fans originally realized the dance club potential in her music in the early '90s, when Soul II Soul remixed Vega's popular song "Tom's Diner" (named for an Upper West Side Manhattan diner, the facade of which features in most episodes of "Seinfeld") into an infectious dance beat.

Since her early days singing about an abused kid named "Luka," Vega was in tune with the melancholy aspects of life. And indeed, the past few years dished up a few cold plates worthy of sullen reflection -- Vega lost her younger brother Tim to alcoholism, A&M discontinued her contract after many years ("Beauty & Crime" is released by Blue Note) and she divorced her producer husband Michael Froom, who is also the father of her 13-year-old daughter, Ruby.

But despite the muck, Vega sounds strong and happy on an impressive body of work that's receiving solid reviews. Perhaps it's because of her marriage to poet and civil rights' attorney Paul Mills (he asked her to marry him in 1981, and again on Christmas Day 2005, when she finally said yes) or maybe it's because she has had enough time and experience to hone her talent and nail her skills. In any case, Vega has the most anyone can hope for at 48: age and wisdom mingled with grace and loveliness.

"I was once bound at the root, confined with twine, both mind and foot. I cut it loose, and now am free, as anything alive can be." (From the song "Unbound.")

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.