Veteran singer-songwriter Susan Werner on the future queen of bluegrass | In Rotation | Chicago Reader

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Veteran singer-songwriter Susan Werner on the future queen of bluegrass

Plus: Musician and artist Scott Montgomery on the very same Susan Werner, Reader coeditor in chief Karen Hawkins on a song to restart your heart, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Lizzo on the cover of Cuz I Love You
  • Lizzo on the cover of Cuz I Love You

Karen Hawkins, Reader coeditor in chief

Jamila Woods, "LSD" It is both possible and necessary to be obsessed with more than one Jamila Woods album at a time, and I'm doing my part by keeping both Legacy! Legacy! (2019) and Heavn (2016) on repeat. I appreciate the way "LSD" (from Heavn) doubles as a love letter to Chicago, and this line always hits me like a lightning strike: "You gotta love me like I love the lake." Preach. If you grew up in Chicago, the song's video is a four-minute snapshot of your childhood summers.

Beyoncé dance captain Ashley Everett teaching the choreography for "Formation" in Chicago Back in my day, when you wanted to dance along to your favorite video, you had to hope it stayed in MTV's countdown long enough for you to learn when to hit record on your VHS tape, then rewatch it like a maniac so you could memorize every move. You kids today have it easy. There's a one-minute snippet of this tutorial online, and it's my fave when I need a quick hit of dance-in-my-living-room Beyoncé—it's taken from a 16-minute video of a master class at Hubbard Street Dance.

Lizzo, Cuz I Love You and Coconut Oil "Make all three of them Lizzo," enthused Reader colleague and fellow Lizzo stan Brianna Wellen when I was brainstorming for my In Rotation entries. It's tempting, because there are days when Lizzo's bouncy anthems are all I listen to. You heard it here first: students in first-aid classes will someday be taught to administer CPR to the beat of "Truth Hurts."

Karen is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Molly Tuttle - ALYSSE GAFKJEN
  • ALYSSE GAFKJEN
  • Molly Tuttle

Susan Werner, the wittiest singer-songwriter in Chicago

James Booker Dr. John described him as "the best Black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced." And though I did get to see Dr. John at the Beverly Arts Center a few years ago, I regret that I'll never see James Booker live in person. Legend has it he taught Harry Connick Jr. everything Harry Connick Jr. knows about how to play the piano.

  • James Booker performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1978.

Molly Tuttle I just discovered this young Nashville-based bluegrass singer, guitarist, and banjo player via some friends down there, and wow can she play—plus she's such a terrific songwriter. It'll be fun to watch Molly conquer the world—because she will.

  • Molly Tuttle plays a set at the WGBH studios in Boston in March 2019.

"The Gun Song," from Stephen Sondheim's 1990 musical Assassins Why this piece is in my head lately, I'm not sure. But nothing can outdo Sondheim's brilliant, creepy little barbershop quartet in capturing the weird and violent appeal of firearms. Timeless. Characters in order of appearance: Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated President William McKinley; John Wilkes Booth, who killed Lincoln; Charles Guiteau, who shot James Garfield; and Sara Jane Moore, who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford.

Susan is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Susan Werner - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy of the Artist
  • Susan Werner

Scott Montgomery, musician and artist

The Stooges, Raw Power The Stooges' Raw Power is such a great record—I'm sorry, collection of songs. You don't have to be on anything to feel the lyrics, the percussive piano, the guitars, the drums. It's lusty music that bangs around your head in a way I don't hear today. Probably because Iggy Pop is 72 and there isn't anyone else like him, though that can't be the only reason. Maybe rock 'n' roll has melted.

Susan Werner An artist can tour and do well and you still won't be allowed to hear them on the aggregator that pumps music into the hair salon I've infiltrated for 25 years. I should be listening to Susan Werner when I'm working, but I have to search for her—I have to already know about her. Not like Sam Smith or Adele, no—they're given to you, enforced even. Today's algorithm seems to be beats per minute meets paid-for hype, yet it doesn't spit out anyone I'd want to see for an hour at City Winery. Susan Werner, though—I never want her shows to end.

Housecleaning music I remember my neighbor in Logan Square used to blast L7's "Shitlist" every time she vacuumed her apartment. Sigh. Me, I need Can or Lou Reed or Fela Kuti when I'm cleaning house. My ass has to move, my hair has to flip. I want a comedown, then a back up again. Music to me is like coffee and pot: I want the flower and the power, and I need them to be varied in flavor. Pop music doesn't have the organic variation it used to. I don't know who anyone is anymore—they all sound so pitch modified.  v

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