Turn This Heart Around is not just about family, or tradition, or even great music, though it is certainly all of those things and more. It is bluegrass at its core, always teaching, always learning, always sharing. It’s a father’s confidence that his daughter can learn on the fly. Turn This Heart Around is no album of covers, but rather the fruit of a community ideology of bluegrass music that reaches back many years, as vibrant today as it’s ever been, and Missy Werner’s voice owns every word and commands every note on this album. This is what she was raised to know and love. Missy is joined by special guests Sierra Hull, Sarah Siskind, Megan McCormick, Larry Cordle, and more. Songwriters on the project include Gretchen Peters, Bob Morrison, Paula Breedlove, Sarah Siskind, Eric Gibson, and others.
If your earliest childhood memory is dancing around in your room with a doll, singing along to Loretta Lynn, it’s a safe bet you were born to play music. In Missy Werner’s case she’s never stopped playing, though she’s traded the doll for a mandolin and an effortlessly powerful voice. After being brought up in and around the music of her family, she now releases her latest album of bluegrass and Americana songs, Turn This Heart Around, pulling together some of the brightest lights in American roots music to help her realize her vision.
Born to Kentucky natives, Werner was raised in Cincinnati, OH. Both her parents played in a bluegrass band and their music rubbed off on her from a young age. She learned guitar from age eight, studied fiddle in her adolescence, and eventually joined the band with her parents at 15. In her junior year of college she got a call from her father telling her that the band’s mandolinist quit and that she’d need to learn the instrument for a show only six-weeks away. So she grabbed the mandolin her uncle once won at a raffle for $5, and, as if studying for exams weren’t enough, she threw herself at the instrument. “It never occurred to Daddy that I might not be able to do it,” she says. “His faith in me inspired faith in myself. I’ve been playing mandolin ever since.”
In addition to her mandolin and lead vocals, Missy Werner’s band includes Tim Strong on guitar, Jeff Roberts on banjo, long-time friend and occasional bandmate Brandon Godman on fiddle, and Missy’s husband Artie Werner on bass, with all of them sharing their voices as well. But true to the bluegrass community, there are plenty more fingers at play here. “I love bluegrass because it is so inclusive,” Werner says. “Join in and pick up an instrument. Anywhere you see bluegrass, you are likely to see someone showing someone else a chord or a phrase, whether it be at the beginner level or beyond.”
Werner’s joy for bluegrass oozes with genuine humility; in her eyes her success is owed to the sharing, teaching, and learning community of which she’s a part. But don’t be fooled: Missy Werner is as strong a musician as they come, both as a vocalist and an instrumentalist, and her wisdom as an artist shows itself in aligning with producer and long-time friend Jon Weisberger (IBMA Songwriter of the Year 2012), who curates and pulls together mostly-new songs from at least eighteen songwriters. They include Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame nominee Bob Morrison, reigning IBMA songwriter of the year Eric Gibson, Paula Breedlove (Brad Davis, Marie Osmond), Mark Simos (Alison Krauss, Laurie Lewis), and Gretchen Peters (Martina McBride). Plus, Weisberger contributes a few of his own compositions as well.
On Turn This Heart Around, Werner is joined by some very special guests, like bluegrass wunderkind Sierra Hull who lends her talents on mandolin and octave mandolin and one of her own co-compositions, “A Song That I Love.” The voice of Americana songwriter Sarah Siskind (Alison Krauss, Bon Iver) joins Missy on her haunting song, “Wish I Was.” Larry Cordle, who co-wrote “Dead Man Walking,” also joins Werner on the song. Jeremy Garrett (The Infamous Stringdusters) sings lead on an all-quartet Gospel song, “Travelin’ Light”, with Charlie Cushman accompanying on finger-style guitar. This is quite the august musical collective and the album is full of surprises around every corner.