Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet




After a couple of mid-90’s discs fronting the Imperial Monkeys, Houston, Texas native Carolyn Wonderland moved to Austin and laid down her stake as a solo artist. This release is the first of her three to date. One listen and you’ll understand why she’s shared the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, Los Lobos and most blues musicians who call Austin their home. Vocally, she’s a combination of Janis Joplin, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald with big brassy rock and roll roars followed by a taste of soul stew and then sweet jazz runs. She’s also a social activist who’s not afraid to cut right to the point. "Annie’Scarlet Letter" uses a spare acoustic backdrop to rail against the injustice of a young single mother that is jailed for selling a little pot to make ends meet. "Homelessness in Austin" is a jazzy number that is far more upbeat than Wonderland’s real life tale of having to live in her van and busk on street corners to keep her belly full. The title track has a fun, mysterious groove that almost sounds like an outtake from the Rocky Horror Picture Show but tells a hopeful tale of a change in the status quo based on “love, not fear” (Remember, this was released during the Bush/Kerry election cycle- another shattered dream). Her ballads hit hard as well. "Unbroken" finds her too scared by the fear of rejection to express her love while "Heart" focuses on the need to abandon false hopes. Both give her a chance to shine vocally with an uncluttered musical backdrop and lots of room to soar. While she’s most often cast as a blues musician, many of the tracks here including "Smile", "Judgment Day Blues", "He Said, She Said" and "From a Waffle Booth Six" tend more towards raucous bar room rock in the style of the Faces or Stones. Great stuff that regrettably didn’t earn Wonderland the accolades that were deserved upon its release. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.