Susan Werner

Midwestern Saturday Night

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When viewed against the backdrop of Susan Werner's later work, Midwestern Saturday Night is not a particularly strong album. Werner has, as any good artist should, only strengthened her craft release by release. Taken on its own merits, however, this is still an engaging piece of work. The lyrics are funny without falling into parody, and affecting without being maudlin. When in the title track she sings to her lover "I want to knit you wool sweaters/with little reindeer all over," you believe it and take these prosaic words as a serious expression of strong affection.

Technically, the weaknesses that show up are again, mostly highlighted by hindsight. Werner has significantly improved her ability to emotionally connect with her material, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the track "I Still Believer," which she re-recorded on the breakthrough album Last of the Good Straight Girls. Listen to the two versions side by side, and you feel that somehow Werner has gone from singing a song she wrote about someone she once heard about, to ripping something from the depths of her own painful experience and shoving it in front of your face. Fans should definitely not pass this album by; it shows a good portrait of the artist as a young woman. The first-time listener, however, may be better off choosing something else to really find out what makes Susan Werner tick.

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