Thursday, May 13, 2010

Susan Werner has the right to sing the blues Originally published: May 12, 2010 2:10 PM Updated: May 13, 2010 3:21 PM By STEVE PARKS

Susan Werner & Red Molly
Program Sponsored by WFUV Radio
and Laurie Krotman & Susan Shattuck, Special Events Unlimited

Saturday, May 15, 2010Susan Werner is one of those vagabond musicians who "tours constantly and records occasionally." She's not recording just now. But Saturday night in Port Washington, she'll keep an eye on the audience to divine which songs "make the cut" for her next CD - a so-far untitled blues album.
What's a Chicago singer-songwriter whose songs brim with intellectual and classical influences doing singing the blues? "I can't reach the blues through poverty," says Werner, conceding in a phone interview that she's "doing all right." "But I found I can get there through agriculture."
Susan Werner, the casual sophisticate, grew up a farm girl in Iowa. A recent drive from Memphis to "Blues Capital" Clarksdale, Miss. - where planting and harvesting still dominate - convinced her she had the field cred to do the blues. "It gave me the courage to write from a blues perspective."
Like other concerts on her evolving tour, Saturday's will be a "test drive of songs. Out of the corner of my eye I'm watching the audience. If they're shifting in their seats, I'm not reaching them," she says.
But Werner, with her easy manner, versatile musicianship and smart lyrics, usually reaches her audience - even when the songs are not what they expect. On her 2009 "Classics" album, she covered 10 pop songs from the '60s and '70s - essentially before her time as she was born in 1965 - with a classical music treatment complete with chamber musicians.
"Gospel Truth" in 2007 examined religion from the point of view of a nonbeliever. How did that go over in the Bible Belt? "It was a lively project," she says, "a lightning rod - from both sides. But it seemed to speak to churchgoers and skeptics alike." Werner plays Saturday with Red Molly, the Brooklyn-based "girl band" known for sparkling three-part harmonies, who open the concert. Sure to make Werner's playlist is Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" from "Classics" - owing to its current timeliness.
Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas
Fish full of mercury
Susan Werner in concert, co-billed with Red Molly: 8 p.m. Saturday at the Jeanne Rimsky Theatre, Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main St., Port Washington, 516-767-6444,
Cost: $35 to $40


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