Susan Werner
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Susan Werner

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Music

Press


"Susan Werner, a clever songwriter and an engaging performer, brings literacy and wit back to popular song..." - New Yorker Magazine


Werner has written new music -her debut for Koch, I Can't Be New - based on the melodic traditions and lyricism of Tin Pan Alley's torch-song past. Yet there's something more direct and forceful about Werner's take. With the florid piano of Boston Pops player Brad Hatfield, Werner's cuttingly enunciated lyrics come through with crystal clarity. Whether she's talking through the tiredness and the tears of the title track or the nonplussed romance of "I'm Not Sure," Werner, often backed by casual big brass and woozy woodwind arrangements, sounds as cocky and committed as jazz singer Anita O'Day.
- Philadelphia Inquirer


...Instead of rummaging through collections of vintage lyrics in search of worthy material, (Werner) has written all the songs that appear on "I Can't Be New," including several delightfully crafty and concise tunes that place classic pop mood-making in a contemporary light. In fact, if Bennett and k.d. lang ever collaborate in the studio again, they might want to consider some of the tunes here.

There's certainly a lot of fine material to choose from, whether it's the blues-tinged saloon song "Tall Drink of Water," the bittersweet bossa nova-tinted ballad "I'm Not Sure," the ironic lament "Much at All" or the album's yearning and in some ways emblematic "Maybe if I Sang Cole Porter." But more than any other song, "Late for the Dance" stands out, partly because the lyrics are as spare as they are poignant, and partly because Werner's classically trained voice never sounds more soulful. (Mike Joyce)
- Washington Post on I Can't Be New


"She conquers the cabaret jazz/pop scene with sublime originals that sound like Great American Songbook classics."

- Philadelphia Daily News


"(Susan Werner is) a triply blessed artist who sings adroitly, plays the piano smartly and, best of all, writes songs of genuine distinction and high craft..." - Chicago Tribune


"(Werner is) a songwriter and musician who is in such complete command of her gifts that it's almost scary." - All Music Guide


"This woman is great. Period." - Music Row (Nashville)


Discography

Live At Passim - 2008
The Gospel Truth - 2007
My Strange Nation (single) - 2006
I Can't Be New - 2004
All Mapped Out (DVD) - 2002
New Non-Fiction - 2001
Time Between Trains - 1998
Last of the Good Straight Girls - 1995
Live at Tin Angel - 1993
Midwestern Saturday Night - 1992

Photos

Bio

Best Contemporary Folk Artist 2007 (International Folk Alliance)
Folk Album of the Year 2007 (Folk Alley/NPR & WUMB)

Susan Werner's most recent album release "The Gospel Truth" is a socially conscious, agnostic gospel album. Hymns for the spiritually ambivalent. And has been called "the most American of Americana albums."

"Susan Werner, a clever songwriter and an engaging performer, brings literacy and wit back to popular song." -The New Yorker
"(Susan Werner is) a triply blessed artist who sings adroitly, plays the piano smartly and, best of all, writes songs of genuine distinction and high craft..." -Chicago Tribune

SW.COM PROMO KIT & HI RES PHOTOS: www.SusanWerner/promo

Inspiration for “The Gospel Truth”
In the summer of 2006, as if the muse was tugging on her heartstrings, singer-songwriter Susan Werner attended the Chicago Gospel Music Festival in her adopted hometown for the first time. The overwhelming, ecstatic energy of the event prompted her friend Kenni to remark, “Wow, is there a way you can get all this joy, but without the Jesus?” This honest question sparked a remarkable creative odyssey that led Werner to pews in over 20 churches across the United States in search of The Gospel Truth, a groundbreaking independent collection that may just be the world’s first agnostic gospel recording.

Tapping fearlessly into the zeitgeist of contemporary American religious culture, the eleven songs on The Gospel Truth are both heartfelt and incisive, biting yet optimistic, drawing from Werner’s own personal spiritual questions to engage the Christian community at large. Addressing those tough universal doubts that fundamentalists surely have but wish to God they could verbalize; Werner seeks common ground with her traditional religious counterparts in finding solutions to the issues that divide America.

Fresh off the success of I Can’t Be New, her critically acclaimed 2004 collection of all-original compositions done in the Great American Songbook style, Werner’s road to truth is paved by both witty observations of Christian culture and, musically, an ongoing love for classic gospel, country and bluegrass traditions. Just as she immersed herself in the songs of Gershwin, Cole Porter, et al and the classic interpretations by Julie London as part of her creative process on I Can’t Be New, Werner this time was tireless in mining inspiration from legendary and contemporary country, gospel and bluegrass artists, from familiar names like The Carter Family and The Stanley Brothers, to the lesser known Claire Lynch and Fern Jones (the co-called Patsy Cline of gospel).

“Someone suggested I do a blues album for my next project, and while toying with the idea, I came across the music of Blind Willie Johnson, a bluesman from the 1920’s whose music went beyond ‘my baby done left me’ and into what you might call gospel blues. I liked his sense of transcendence, the spirit of conveying something beyond his own heartbreak. Then I attended the Chicago gospel festival and the energy of the music, the choirs was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.”

“The Most American of Americana Projects”
A farm girl, raised in a large Catholic family in rural Iowa, Werner spent years caught in the spiritual middle between a healthy religious skepticism and a true appreciation for all that Christianity means to millions of people in the United States. “For me, The Gospel Truth is the most American of Americana projects,” she says. “My personal doubts aside, religion gives us much of our energy as a nation, and is a source, I think, of the beautiful naiveté we have about truly being a force of good in the world. It’s part of the American personality. And I don’t necessarily feel I have to get right with God, but I figure we have to somehow get all right with God because God’s not leaving American life anytime soon.

“People all over the world want to give meaning to their life’s journey and engage in a larger sense of purpose,” Werner adds. “Here, in the United States, it seems that churches are the default setting—the first place you look for that sense of purpose. Overall, these songs convey my belief that doubt and faith can reside side by side in a good person. And, I guess I’d reached a time in life where I wanted to have this conversation with myself; to keep what my church going parents got right while moving into what was true and right for me. And, while I’m not absolutely sure we encounter God through church music, I do know that church music is very revealing of us as human beings. And that’s what The Gospel Truth is really all about.”

The Songs on “The Gospel Truth”
Werner’s first step in getting at that truth is “(Why Is Your) Heaven So Small,” a pointed barb at the hypocrisy of narrow-minded “one way to heaven” religiosity. Producer Glenn Barratt sets Werner’s Appalachian gospel melody amidst groove driven drums and sitars, which takes the song, as the singer sees it, “from Kentuck