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This article by Nicole Plett

was prepared for the March 13, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Out of Nowhere: Music

On Susan Werner’s latest CD, you’ll hear her sing


want a big, big car" — and she doesn’t mean a stuck up SUV.

"Give me a big old ugly L.T.D., a Lincoln Town Car or a Grand

Marquis," says the songwriter, adding, "it’s not about speed,

it’s about attitude." Werner’s song, which has already scored

featured airplay on NPR’s adored "Car Talk," makes sense


from someone who grew up "in the middle of nowhere."

Werner’s fifth and latest album, released in February, is titled


Non-Fiction." She’ll perform at Concerts at the Crossing in


on Saturday, March 16.

The youngest of six children who grew up on a family farm near


Iowa, Werner considers "the middle of nowhere" the perfect

place for a musician to start from. "Everybody in my family can

sing and play an instrument," says Werner. "In the middle

of nowhere, you have to make your own entertainment." But Werner

corrects my impression of charming children and string quartets.


think `Amadeus,’" she quickly cautions, " — think `Music


Werner began studying guitar at age five, but during some pretty


high school years she was also playing saxophone. "Music in the

schools saved my life," she says. "If you find a teacher who

encourages your talent in a certain direction, it changes the


of your whole life."

In this case the teacher was Werner’s high school band director, Allan

Jacobsen, who she describes as "a jazz head" and a talented

jazz drummer.

"I was very lucky that such a talented musician would come to

a small high school to teach. He had a family to raise and needed

a steady gig." Her teacher also had a great record collection

and introduced her to the music of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald,

and Count Basie. "I was hooked early and hooked hard."

Werner eventually went to the city "and got all groovy." She

earned a master’s degree in classical music at Temple University in

Philadelphia and stayed in the city for 12 years. It proved ideally

situated as a base for East Coast touring. On the road for 10 years,

she lives in Chicago now. "When you travel all the time it doesn’t

matter where you live," she says, though being close to family

was a factor in her choice.

Werner’s previous albums include "Time Between Trains,"


of the Good Straight Girls," and "Midwestern Saturday


as well as "Live at the Tin Angel." Among the 11 new songs

on "New Non-Fiction" is "Misery and Happiness" is

an inspired story song about a single woman, out at a club, making

a foolish choice. Has this happened to you, we ask the 36-year-old

Werner. "You’d have to say personal experience factors into a

song like that. It’s homespun story telling, a tall tale, it’s a


with your best friend. But misery gets all the best lines — that’s

the hard part."

Also included on "New Non-Fiction" is Werner’s quirkily


rendition of the ’60s pop classic, "Everybody’s Talkin’."

The inspired performance reflects her enduring interest in the jazz

tradition of reinterpreting familiar songs with an original flair.

"It’s about finding the adventure in a song you might not have

thought had any left in it."

"To re-think the music of song is part of the tradition of jazz

singers, to find a new way to say the old thing, change tempo,


or dramatically change the tempo," she says. However, nothing

annoys her more than to hear a cover done that’s just like the


— "Why bother?"

Werner also writes her own jazz ballads. "There’s something for

me to do as a jazz singer yet," she says. "People love


something new in the old style."

— Nicole Plett

Susan Werner, Concerts at the Crossing, Unitarian

Church at Washington Crossing, Titusville, 609-406-1803. $15.


March 16, at 8 p.m.

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