TERRE HAUTE —
Dubbed “one of the most innovative songwriters working today” by the Chicago Tribune, Susan Werner will bring her clever brand of modern folk music to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Called “the empress of the unexpected” by NPR, her most recent album, “Kicking the Beehive,” marks yet another shift in Werner’s multifaceted musical career. It’s an 11-song collection of provocative, poignant, lyrical originals that are infused with the rustic roots of American folk, blues and country music. Produced by Rodney Crowell, “Kicking the Beehive” features guest appearances from Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo and Paul Franklin.
“Kicking the Beehive”’ followed Werner’s 2009 recording, “Classics,” a pop-meets-classical album of contemporary standards supported by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
“That was a very conservatory project,” Werner says. “There were a lot of string arrangements, and I learned a great deal about arranging and songwriting. But after that, I wanted to do something different.”
Born and raised in Iowa, Werner began singing and playing the guitar in church at age 5. By the time she finished elementary school, the young musician had also taken up piano. In high school, she would add saxophone to her arsenal of instruments, play in jazz combos and sing in school drama productions, before earning a degree in voice at the University of Iowa.
Originally pursuing a career in opera, Werner earned her master’s degree in voice at Temple University in Philadelphia. While there, she was inspired to begin composing music on her acoustic guitar after attending a concert by Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith. “She was singing — her own songs about her home, Texas,” Werner told the Boston Herald. “I realized it was as noble, as honorable as classical singing. And I thought I could do this!”
Werner, who had previously been playing with a jazz trio, began taking her guitar around to coffeehouses on the folk circuit in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City in the early 1990s. Soon, she was making a name for herself in the regional folk scene. Performing at venues up and down the East Coast, she recorded five albums from 1993 to 2001 before relocating to Chicago.
Werner’s sixth album, “I Can’t Be New” (2004), was an evolution of sorts, leaning away for her folk-singing repertoire more heavily into jazz influences. Her seventh album “The Gospel Truth,” released in March 2007, looks at religion, faith, and social responsibility, from an agnostic’s point of view. In 2010, Tom Jones recorded Werner’s song “Did Trouble Me” for his album “Praise and Blame.”
Accompanying Werner on this tour are Trina Hamlin on harmonica, percussion and vocals, and Natalia Zukerman on lap steel, dobro, bass and vocals.
“I first heard Susan several years ago in an NPR interview featuring her ‘Classics’ album. I was immediately drawn to her clever arrangements and honey-like singing voice,” says Hatfield Hall’s Bunny Nash. “When I actually saw her live last year I had a brand new appreciation for her talent. Not only is she an outstanding musician and songwriter but she was so much fun!”
Tickets may be purchased in person, or by calling the Hatfield Hall ticket desk at 812-877-8544. Ticket desk hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and two hours before each event. Complete season information, including artist video clips, is available at hatfieldhall.com.