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Susan Werner: I Can’t Be New

Singer/songwriter Susan Werner insists, quite rightly, that I Can’t Be New (Koch) “isn’t a record for jazz purists. The purists want old songs done in a new way.” Instead, Werner’s goal with these 13 self-penned tunes is, as the cheeky title suggests, to do new songs in an old way. As such, the classically trained Bostonian succeeds beautifully.

Though there’s not the merest whiff, not the tiniest drop, of anything resembling jazz singing or playing here, Werner single-handedly revitalizes the sadly fading art of cabaret. In the rich tradition of Mabel Mercer and Julie Wilson, Werner is, as both writer and singer, an exceptionally good raconteur with a skill for the slightly saucy ditties (“Tall Drink of Water,” “Let’s Regret This in Advance”), clever list songs (“I Can’t Be New,” “Much at All”) and inky, after-midnight ballads (“I’m Not Sure,” “No One Needs to Know”) that define so much of the cabaret palette. She closes I Can’t Be New with the purposefully creaky coda “Maybe If I Sang Cole Porter.” Though she sings it with tongue firmly in cheek, I must it admit that it would be awfully interesting if she’d take a brief respite from songwriting and dive into such wonderful cabaret fare as, say, Porter’s “Let’s Not Talk About Love” or Kurt Weill’s “Saga of Jenny” or just about anything by Noel Coward.

Originally Published