Susan Herndon was recognized in 2021 as one of Norman’s Art Treasures.

Her image as a musician on stage by photographer Robert “Woodie” Woods (1948-2020) was included in a series of postcards titled “Norman Seen, Volume II; Cultural heroes. The Jennifer Robertson-designed series was funded by the estate of David Slemmons and Woods.

“Poetry, images and observations from and about the people who helped make Norman the cultural oasis it is today” were captured.

Herndon is one of those talented people who have been creating art here and around the world since 1999.

His work continues today with the release of his 11th album, “Big Blue Beautiful Dream”.

A celebration of the release of the new record will include concerts by Herndon and the Bella Counsel at 8 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley Ave. in Oklahoma City.

“It was a great honor and a huge surprise when Jennifer Robertson included me in the Cultural Heroes series,” Herndon said. “So many of my heroes are in this project. I was blown away by the photo Woodie took and the poem he wrote. It was so sweet.

“Big Blue Beautiful Dream” is a dozen of his original compositions. Sixteen musicians have guest appearances on the record, and most of them fall into the Norman Cultural Hero category. She assembled a list of players ranging from virtuoso guitarists known at area truck stops to a trombone professor at the University of Oklahoma.

One person from outside Central Oklahoma is session drummer Andy Newmark, who plays on a track. He was a member of Sly and the Family Stone and performed with John Lennon, Pink Floyd and David Bowie.

Norman percussionist Randall Coyne made the connection, with Newmark bringing him into the project. Musician and singer Herndon laughed when asked how she felt about her responsibilities as a big band leader.

“Sometimes it’s like herding cats,” she says. “Sometimes it’s being the den mother. Often it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s so much fun. I love playing and doing my solo thing but I love playing with these guys. They are the creme de la creme. I’m lucky and fortunate to be able to play with all these guys.

A gentleman wore several hats for the project. Most of the tracks were recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by Carl Amburn at Norman’s Mousetrap Studio. He also played bass and drums on one song, with a background whisper.

“Carl is the man behind the curtain,” Herndon said. “He’s magical and has made so many great records for people here. Hats off to him. He’s so easy to work with and make dreams come true. I can’t say enough good things about Carl.

Amburn was part of a team that helped bring to fruition what Greg Johnson, owner of famed Oklahoma City music venue, The Blue Door, called “the best work of his career.” It was a project that took a considerable amount of time to complete.

“I started on this record six years ago,” Herndon said. “Then we toured England and Europe, so we needed a little five-song CD to take away. It was a precursor to “Big Blue Beautiful Dream”. I’m delighted with how it turned out. The pandemic halted production.

The deaths in the Herndon and Amburn families caused heartache and further heartbreak as they went through life’s transitions.

“We have a lot of special guests on the album, including Jahruba Lambeth on percussion, a horn section, Roger Kimball on saxophone, Jay Wilkinson and Irv Wagner, who are big shots in the music community here,” Herndon said. . “I was like a kid in a candy store excited to play with all these great talents.”

Herndon has learned to take the world as it is. She finds both artistic inspiration and solace in enjoying nature. Herndon’s songs are about rivers, birds and kisses.

“Love Glasses” suggests that it’s a good idea for everyone to view our planet through the lenses of affection, rather than horror.

“I just want to be in nature with its calm and peace as much as possible, while defending our rights which seem to be disappearing,” she said.

Herndon recently moved to San Antonio, where she unexpectedly found a natural oasis in the city. Learning home-building techniques in a family business rivaled his time making music.

“I’m my cousin’s right-hand man in his construction company,” she says. “It was good to make a change.”

Expect Herndon and his band Bella Counsel — including guitarist Bob French, drummer Randall Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steve “Murf” Murphy — to perform the entire new album as part of their Blue Door show.

“The second set we’ll be doing a variety of new songs and my old stuff that people love,” Herndon said. “We’ll have a horn section and we’ll have them incorporated into all the songs, which was a dream of mine since I was a little girl when Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago were some of my favorite bands.”

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