Veteran singer-songwriter Susan Werner returns to her Midwestern roots on Hayseed
, the fourth in her recent run of concept albums. Dedicated to her parents and forebears, the disc focuses on her family's work as lifelong farmers, and Werner puts her money behind it: A chunk of the change she raised for the album through crowdfunding went directly to a trio of nonprofits with agriculturally centered missions. The songs themselves were commissioned by the University of Nebraska's Lied Center for Performing Arts, along with the university's Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Werner has been known to share produce from the stage as well.
She sticks largely to contemporary folk on Hayseed, an album that sounds like it'd fit perfectly on a rural front porch rather than chasing the pop and jazz that wormed into her recent work. Her wit is evident on the wry, twangy "Herbicides," which she sardonically concludes, "done made me gay." There are plenty of heartfelt moments, too, as the terrific singer pays tender tribute to those still tilling the fields.