It’s easy to put the women that I write about, on such a high pedestal, that they seem super human. I know I am describing most successful musicians when I say that no one works harder and perseveres more. They work months on end, touring the world, away from their families. Often their schedules are such that even eating at a restaurant, in a foreign country, is out of the question, let alone exploring or acting like a tourist for a day. Even to get where they are in life, they have spent hours alone practicing and fine tuning their skills, until they found their voice, their sound, that made them stand out above the rest. Perhaps, once on stage they forget all their concerns and release them in the music they play. Taking all this in, it sometimes makes it difficult to even begin to feel worthy enough to write about them. I feel this way more for some than others. That is why it took me so long to write my next post, on one of my favorites, Carolyn Wonderland.
One of the first songs I heard her play was “The Wind Cries Mary”, by Jimi Hendrix. I am a faithful Hendrix fan, so when someone attempts one of his songs, my ears perk up like a curious dog. Not everyone can play a Hendrix song and really pull it off, with the exception of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Randolph, or female rock phenom Orianthi. Carolyn Wonderland’s version of “The Wind Cries Mary”, which she plays on electric mandolin, tops my list of favorites.
Carolyn Wonderland can channel Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Hendrix all in one song and still make it sound originally hers.
Bonnie Raitt pairs up with Carolyn Wonderland’s version of the old Blind Willie Johnson song “Ain’t Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.
This performance is part of a film called “Road to Austin”.
In an NPR interview Carolyn Wonderland talks about how she grew up in Houston. She never wanted to be a singer but learned how to play every instrument she could get her hands on. Among the instruments she plays are guitar, mandolin, lap steel, ukelele, trumpet, and piano. Austin, the blues Mecca, beckoned. There, after some coaxing she began to sing, and once she did, lucky for us, she never stopped.
Recently, Carolyn Wonderland collaborated with John Mayall, on an album called “Nobody Told Me”. Like a lot of blues performers, she and John Mayall have a large following in Europe and Australia. Tour dates have been posted with performances throughout the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, till the end of Spring. More tour dates for later in the year will be announced.
As if being a multi talented performer wasn’t enough, there is so much more to Carolyn Wonderland. When she isn’t touring she is busy performing with the Golden Crown Harmonizers, raising money for food banks, homeless shelters, and for the legalization of marijuana in Austin. She is also a board member for an assisted living facility for aging musicians, some of whom helped transform our music to what it is today. Carolyn Wonderland’s sweet personality shines through in interviews. Her practical and down to earth approach to life make her seem like someone you could know in your neighborhood. On one NPR interview she advised those new to the music industry to “Be realistic, live cheap, share. This business is brutal, to weed out those who are not in it for life”. Sounds like good words to live by musician or not.