Susan Werner and Joe Crookston appeared at Cellar Stage™ Timonium on Friday, June 8, 2018.
Susan Werner has done it again; the woman NPR named the Empress of the Unexpected, has brought forth another unique concept album. Her new EP, An American in Havana, is a collection of original songs inspired by Werner’s recent travels to Cuba. The recording features performances and arrangements by legendary Cuban percussionist Mayra Casales (Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puenta, Regina Carter) along with Werner’s trademark songcraft and wry, poetic lyrics.
Her previous recording, Hayseed, paid tribute to American agriculture and to her Iowa farm roots, Werner again keeping her audiences guessing and laughing simultaneously, lending her wry humor and passionate voice to subjects such as farmer s markets, agrochemicals, climate change, drought, longing for a sense of place, and the movement towards sustainable agriculture. The characters and perspectives are varied and colorful, the lyrics are sharp as thistles, the music is handmade and hoppin , and with Hayseed Werner continues her reign as one of the most bold and creative forces on the acoustic music scene today.
Listeners will recognize Werner s Americana roots, first heard on 2011 s country/blues tinged Kicking the Beehive; however, the collection of originals that appear on Hayseed hits even closer to home. Everything was mandolin and banjo and upright bass and fiddle, she says. A sound that s as forgive the term, but it finally applies organic as a sound can get. Released on Sleeve Dog Records and distributed via Thirty Tigers, the album itself was commissioned by the University of Nebraska s Lied Center For The Performing Arts and the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the entire project began with seed money from fans during a successful PledgeMusic campaign. Werner incentivized fans with unusual rewards like signed ears of corn from her folks farm, and a percentage of the money raised was donated to three farming charities; Practical Farmers of Iowa in Ames, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) of Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Known for her engaging and energetic live show, Werner will be adding another homegrown aspect to her Hayseed tour schedule making special appearances at local farmers markets throughout the nation.
After launching her career with the self-released Midwestern Saturday Night in 1993, her second recording Live at Tin Angel impressed executives at Private Music/BMG, which released her critically acclaimed major label debut Last of the Good Straight Girls in 1995. She also received critical accolades for her subsequent recordings Time Between Trains (VelVel, 1998) and New Non-Fiction (Indie, 2001). She has toured the nation with acts such as Richard Thompson, Keb’ Mo’, and Joan Armatrading, and was featured in a 1998 Peter, Paul, and Mary PBS special as one of the best of the next generation of folk songwriters.