Suzi RagsdaleThere was literally a surprise in store for Suzi Ragsdale at the in-store party for her new release, 'Best Regards/More of the Same,' on Wednesday at Grimey's Records in Nashville. Suzi's dad, country music funny man Ray Stevens, was on hand to sing with her, but he also brought her a huge bouquet of pink and white flowers. "Your mom made me, or I wouldn't have done it," he told her as he handed her the arrangement.

After complimenting her on the new CD, the proud papa quipped, "Maybe now you can start to earn a little money and you can take care of me and your mom in our old age!"

If his enjoyment level was any indication, Ray need not worry about old age any time soon. Singing with Suzi on 'Troublemaker' he looked like he was having a wonderful time taking part in the celebration of her new album, a two-CD collection which includes Suzi's material both old and new. While 'Best Regards' has a touch of jazz, a bit of an acoustic sound, and a pinch of bluegrass/mountain music provided by special guest Darrell Scott, the second disc, 'Less of the Same,' includes five of her original songs written throughout her career, plus a cover of Darrell's 'Full Light,' a duet with Gabe Dixon. Rodney Crowell also joins Suzi on the album version of 'Troublemaker.'

"We [Suzi and producer Tim Lauer] listened to all the songs I wanted to record and determined that they fell into two categories," Suzi tells The Boot, explaining how she came to do two short CDs instead of one full album. "The first six on 'Best Regards' are a little more quirky and they have full, lush string arrangements that give them a kind of circus quality. The second half leans more to rock 'n' roll or pop; we had a full band in the studio."

Suzi admits that being the daughter of a famous country singer is a double-edged sword. "As far as growing up with him as dad, and falling in love with this business, he taught me a lot. But although it has been helpful and valuable to have that knowledge, it hasn't opened doors with people wanting to give me a record deal. Everyone is supportive in Nashville and kind of like a family of songwriters. But I sometimes feel that if I'd come into town from Texas 15 years ago, I might have got more attention than I did being from Nashville and sitting here with my dad. However, I'm very grateful for the life I've had; the advantages and inside track have been great."

Suzi's distinct sound takes her outside the realm of pure, mainstream country, yet the singer/songwriter in her tells stories of heartache, love, friends and hope -- all topics that can be found in many country songs from her era as well as her dad's. She says one of her favorite songs on the CD is the story of 'Virginia.'

"I moved into my new house almost three years ago and I had just gone through two long-term relationships that ended. I found myself alone in that house and then I met my next door neighbor, Virgina, who has been on her own for 30 years. At 72, she is a gardener and a beautiful happy and smiling person."

The two women got to know each other, with Virginia giving Suzi gardening tips and probably a lot more as they shared their stories with each other. "She's so beautiful, and seeing her over there is inspirational, the way she's living her life, happy and independent and creative, and it was sort of a good vehicle to tell my truth of where I am in my life."

Virginia may have found her new next-door-neighbor an easy person to teach about gardening, since Suzi is an avid cook who has videos and recipes on her website. The singer views cooking as another way to be creative. She's also a certified yoga and fitness instructor. While she's excited about all aspects of her life, it is 'Best Regards/Less of the Same' that Suzi is most excited about right now.

"I'm charting on Americana radio, where I just debuted at 35 with just one week behind me," Suzi says. "Looking forward to it climbing the charts and getting radio airplay is exciting. My 30 years of making records and wanting to be heard looks like it's paying off now."

'Best Regards/Less of the Same' is on Clyde/Stark Raven Records and is in stores and available online.