Such exotic locales as Havana, Cuba, and New Orleans have inspired Susan Werner’s travelogue album series. Next up just might be family-oriented Manchester, which is the veteran singer/ songwriter’s hometown.
The common denominator between each of the three very different cities is warmth, according to Werner.
“There is such community in Havana,” Werner said by phone from her Philadelphia home. “Everybody seems to know everybody there. I felt like there was a close-knit community in New Orleans, as well.
“And then there’s Manchester. You have a town of 5,000 people and you know everyone. We have the same mayor, Milt Kramer, for years (since 1974). Milt was mayor there since I went to elementary school. How often do you see that?”
The West Delaware High School alum has traveled the globe and resided in Chicago and Philly, but Manchester remains close to her heart.
“I try to get back three or four times a year to see my folks and just connect with the community,” she said. “I’ll see old friends and go to the Mexican restaurant (Rio Blanco).”
Werner will return to her alma mater for a performance Friday (11/29) at Hanson Auditorium.
“When I was going to high school, we never had an auditorium like the Hanson Auditorium. But that says a lot about the community. Manchester punches above its weight. It’s going to be very cool coming back and playing there in front of so many friends and family,” she said.
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Werner will showcase tracks from “An American in Havana” and her latest project, “NOLA.” The latter features traditional New Orleans tunes, which were inspired by such Big Easy icons as Fats Domino and Dr. John. The Havana album is full of Cuban-flavored cuts.
“I enjoyed both of those cities so much,” Werner said. “The music and the food of New Orleans is amazing. I just can’t get enough of it. Havana is a beautiful, unique city. I was so inspired by each city.”
But Werner might craft a Manchester-centric album, since that’s where it all started.
“That’s a real possibility,” she said. “It’s a place I know well. There is something about the people of Manchester. I love my hometown and I love that Iowans are curious people. That innate curiosity led me on a journey that’s taken me to so many places. What’s great is that I can always go back home.”
Werner couldn’t help but gush when it comes to her childhood.
“I owe my entire career to Pope John XXIII and St. Mary’s Elementary,” Werner said. “The Pope updated the Mass to allow contemporary music. The Franciscan nuns taught my brother how to play guitar. My brother taught me how to play three chords, and that was the start of everything for me as a child.”
After appearing in a number of musicals and immersing herself in her high school jazz band, Werner majored in vocal performance at the University of Iowa, as well as in graduate school at Temple University.
Her education and her drive have led to a career with more than a dozen albums to her credit. “Hayseed” best reflects her upbringing in a farming family. The 2013 album, which was commissioned by the University of Nebraska’s Lied Center for the Performing Arts, is a concept album about people and lifestyles in farm communities in rural areas.
“‘Hayseed’ is one of my favorite albums, since so many people connected with it,” she said. “Everybody understood the material except the people on the coasts. It’s relatable material from Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) to Sacramento (California). When I was on the ‘Hayseed’ tour, I would go out and play places like farmers markets, and I would toss out brussels sprouts on stalks and kohlrabi. I had a blast and I still love playing those songs.”
Werner will showcase songs from throughout her career, which spans more than a quarter-century, when she plays back home. She expects to have a blast.
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“I’m going to have the greatest time,” she said. “This is the reunion tour. It’s me and my hometown. It’s a one-night reunion, which I believe will be amazing. It’s the night after Thanksgiving. The timing couldn’t be better.”
• What: Susan Werner
• Where: Hanson Auditorium, West Delaware High School, 605 N. New St., Manchester
• When: 7 p.m. Friday (11/29)
• Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door; (563) 927-3515 or hansonauditorium.com
• Artist’s website: susanwerner.com/