As the final show in The 5th Annual Hudson Square Music & Wine Festival at City Winery in New York City, Carolyn Wonderland was the perfect choice to end the free concert series for another year. Held outdoors in the rear of the Manhattan venue, the gates opened at the end of the workday, creating a sweet and stress-free way to start the evening.
While it seems Carolyn Wonderland has an endless tour schedule, her trips to New York City are to be taken as small gifts to treasure, because her singing and style of blues are exactly that, a treasure. Originally from Houston, her home is now Austin, where she is heavily involved in the music community.
As the temperature ebbed slightly, the humidity did not. Wonderland, dressed in black with boots, guitar strap and hair, all in burgundy, took the weather in stride, as she proceeded to heat things up musically. Opening the show with “Come Together,” a song she co-wrote with Ruthie Foster, Wonderland offered a taste both vocally and musically of what was to come. With a voice that’s a little Janis Joplin, a little Marsha Ball, a little Susan Tedeschi and a whole lot of powerful, Wonderland vocals are unique and at the same time familiar, as she belts out the blues.
Carolyn Wonderland’s “Long Way To Go”
Throughout the set Wonderland mixed in her own music with that of other musicians, much of it friends and fellow musicians from her home state, careful to give credit on each song to the writer. Gently accepting applause from the crowd with a “thank you kindly,” her southern manners softened the rough edg es of a NYC workday.
A little finger pickin’ led the way into “Two Trains,” with tight backing from Rob Hooper on drums and Cole El-Saleh on keyboards and key-bass. Wonderland’s set list was a nice mixture of high, low, fast, and slow numbers, keeping the crowd engaged throughout.
After a few words about her home state’s great music and bad politics, the band launched into a passionate cover of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed.” She was then joined onstage by fellow blues singer Shelley King for “Money In The Game.” Wonderland then started making a few eclectic choices, sampling a little Los Lobos then going to The Band’s “Don’t Do It,” to Joplin’s “What Good Can Drinking Do.” Coming to the end of the show was “Palace Of The King,” a song written in honor of the late, great bluesman Freddie King.
If you know Carolyn Wonderland, you know she has been known to pull out a trumpet and play. The only question was whether she would on this particular evening. As the first few notes of “Walk On” were played, the odds seemed to say yes. Switching effortlessly from a blistering guitar to the trumpet, Wonderland kicked up the heat another level, and closed out a memorable performance.
Some artists could easily have mailed in their performance for a show like this; early evening show, hot and humid, and a non-paying crowd. Instead, the Carolyn Wonderland Band just blasted it out of the park. They are a hard working three-piece band with full sound, and a band leader with incredible vocals, guitar work and personality to match.
Texas blues at its best; Carolyn Wonderful.
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor