Susan Werner – I Can’t Be New

Susan WernerSusan Werner
I Can’t Be New
(Koch – 2004)
by Matthew S. Robinson

Ah for the days of good old-fashioned songcraft when songwriters made every lyric and every note really mean something, without teched-out tricks and audio smokescreens.

Fortunately, those days are not completely gone!

On her new album, “I Can’t Be New,” singer/songwriter (in every sense of the words) Susan Werner delivers a baker’s dozen of thoughtful and well-honed selections. The title track (which itself bespeaks a refusal to be a flavor-of-the-day) and the ukelele-laden “Let’s Regret This In Advance”

swing clever lyrics on timeless rhythms reminiscent of Count Basie and the Dorsey brothers. “Don’t I Know You” and “Late for the Dance” are classic piano bar tunes one, a smoky recollection of a hazy memory; the other, a modern day Cinderella story in which getting to the ball is the crux of the problem. “Much At All” and “Stay On Your Side of Town” use simple orchestrations to revel in the simple life lived alone. The cool and sparkling “Tall Drink of Water” sways on a sliding dobro and “No One Needs to Know” and “I’m Not Sure” use spare cellos, gentle Spanish guitars, and Werner’s wandering whispers to tell musical secrets we all have shared.

Throughout the album, Werner does a great deal with very little (“little” in terms of instrumentation, not in terms of talent), just like the greats of days gone by. And though producer Crit Harmon does use the old Victrola sound on a few tracks, his hand is most often light on the knobs, allowing Werner’s rich voice and intelligent lyrics to shine through.

© 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR