After writing twelve albums of songs in styles ranging from folk/rock to Tin Pan Alley to gospel, country and chamber music, what might a woman deemed by National Public Radio as “The Empress of the Unexpected” try next?
As audiences will testify, Werner’s been knocking it out of the park – or concert hall – all around the U.S. for twenty years. Renowned as a charismatic performer, she’s known above all for challenging herself to conquer new styles, almost like mountaintops, every few years.
From her 1995 major label debut, the folk/rock gem Last of the Good Straight Girls, to her 2004 collection of Tin Pan Alley styled originals I Can’t Be New, to her 2007 “agnostic gospel” hymnal The Gospel Truth, to 2013’s tribute to agriculture and her Iowa farm roots Hayseed to 2018’s Cuban flavored collection An American In Havana, Werner’s creative restlessness has become her defining characteristic.
“I like concept albums, because they provide a place for the audience and the artist to meet. You may not know me and I may not know you, but we both know something about a farmer’s market, about what it is to sit in a pew at church and wonder what life means, we both know something about falling in love and maybe falling back out again. I like to have a starting point for an evening’s conversation with an audience – it’s a great icebreaker.”
She first arrived on the national stage when her 1995 BMG debut earned her national concert tours with Joan Armatrading and Richard Thompson. In 1996, Werner was featured as part of the “next generation” in Peter Paul and Mary’s PBS special LifeLines. She has performed on NPR’s World Café, NPR’s Mountain Stage, and in 2016 Nebraska Educational Television broadcast The Land Will Outlive Us All, a one hour special on Werner, agriculture, and her 2015 concert tour across the state.
Her songs have been recorded by Tom Jones and Michael Feinstein, Broadway stars Betty Buckley and Christine Ebersole, and countless individuals and ensembles. But Werner says she’s just getting started: “I just released an album of songs inspired by a trip to New Orleans. And I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland – hey, maybe I could learn the bagpipes. It’s not impossible….is it?”