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Album Review: Carolyn Wonderland - "Peace Meal"

Wonderland’s chops are strongly melodic, and she doesn’t get bogged down in riff-based noodling; it’s some of the most musical playing I’ve heard in a long time, and some of the hottest, too.

Peace Meal
Carolyn Wonderland
Bismeaux Records

Texas guitar slinger/singer/songwriter Carolyn Wonderland’s new CD is gritty, beautiful, smart, and seriously cool. With a mix of originals and perfectly executed covers, Peace Meal is clever and interesting, with plenty of grooves to grab your feet, and owes as much of its power to gospel as it does to blues. Wonderland’s voice is stunning, with a raw edge that brings Janis Joplin to mind, but she quickly defines herself as an utterly unique singer, as accurate and clean as she is soulful. Her inspiration for the disc was her work as an advocate for the homeless, as well as for peace. Many of the songs are on the dark side, but it allows the performances to shine brighter.

But it’s the guitar that makes this record especially addicting. Wonderland’s chops are strongly melodic, and she doesn’t get bogged down in riff-based noodling; it’s some of the most musical playing I’ve heard in a long time, and some of the hottest, too. The slide playing on “Dust My Broom” is full of Texas snark, contrasting brilliantly with the poignant, shimmering wail of “I Can Tell.” The opening cut, “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do,” has some outstandingly fun playing, and a killer groove; it’s also the first time she has ever covered a Janis Joplin song, despite the numerous comparisons. “No Exception” is deliciously funky and high-energy.

Those unfamiliar with Wonderland’s work will find this CD a terrific introduction, most likely leading to a plundering of her previous releases. She’s truly a remarkable player, who happens to be a great songwriter and a phenomenal singer.

Must-Hear Tracks: "Usurper" and "No Exception"
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