By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer
Susan Werner has some fond memories of Fayetteville.
“I feel like I was welcomed to Fayetteville,” Werner said. “The people seem happy to see you in Fayetteville. Their hospitality lives on.”
Werner — who last appeared in Fayetteville in February with bluesman Keb Mo — will return for two shows at 7 and 9 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Sept. 9) in the Starr Theatre at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.
The amiable Werner recalled she had a rare day off the last time she was here, enjoying some free time and the local flavor.
“I loved that. I bought a great book on the Dust Bowl (at Nightbird Books),” Werner said. “(On Flying Possum Leather) I spent at least an hour in there.”
And she definitely remembered the terrain.
“There’s more hills than you think. Walking sucked,” Werner laughed, though she was glad to hear about the pedicab companies that have started since. “Wow, I want to do that. I want to drag my foot out on the asphalt and watch the driver huff and puff uphill.”
Werner was in a different place musically when I first interviewed her in 1998 — fitting fairly easily in the category of folk performer, though an exceptional one who sang mostly her own material.
“I try to keep it challenging and move out of my comfort zone,” Werner said, quoting advice from a friend. “Once you know how to do something, you should stop doing it immediately.”
Her latest gig, on the album “Classics,” is setting pop classics from the ’60s and ’70s to be performed on chamber music instruments. In fact, songs such as “Mercy Mercy Me” by Marvin Gaye and “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney include little classical quotations in Werner’s arrangements.
“It seems obvious to me to bring together ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ with Vivaldi,” Werner said. “It’s an elegant dress on an already beautiful woman.”
She said it’s been interesting doing songs that are already so well known and has been surprised in what works … and what hasn’t always, including America’s “Lonely People.”
“I’ve had some people say to me, ‘That’s such a stupid song. Why did you do that? I used to listen to that while I was driving around drunk,” Werner said.