Carolyn Wonderland, Austin's beloved bluesy-rocker, is a great example of what you can accomplish when you completely dedicate yourself to your own genius and calling.
A tireless tourer and consummate performer, Wonderland has a fascinating biography. The daughter and grandaughter of musicians, her childhood was filled with music and musical instruments. She was writing her own songs as early as eight years old.
And who can't help but admire her independent streak? She not only got kicked out of high school for leading a protest, but she would later live and tour for two years out of her van.
An early lover of the blues, she attributes the first time she heard Little Screamin' Kenny as a defining moment. She herself began performing when she was 15 with an accompanying band called The Imperial Monkeys.
She tours now primarily as a trio with long time bandmates Cole El-Saleh and drummer Michael "Lefty" Lefkowitz.
9/25/10 - Dosey Doe Coffee House (The Woodlands)
10/8/2010 - ACL Festivial (Austin)
10/9/2010 - Verizon Wireless Theater (Houston)
10/22/2010 - Sam's Burger Joint (San Antonio)
10/23/2010 - Uptown Theater (Grand Prairie)
12/4/2010 - Sam's Burger Joint (San Antonio)
Additionally, Wonderland is a generous musician who really seems to feed off the community aspect of her art - so you can frequently catch her at various under the radar performance benefits or jamming somewhere with other great Austin-based musicians like Guy Forsyth, Cindy Cashdollar, or Shelley King (in addition to the videos below, you can also check out Carolyn Wonderland's powerful performance with Shelley King on the Artz Rib House page).
It won't take you all that long to fall in love with Carolyn Wonderland's rough and ready Texas twang, or her sanctified, ain't-never-satisfied wail. This red-hot redhead comes on stage with such an incendiary presence that you will be left with those little stars floating around your head - just like the ones that Sylvester the cat sees after Granny brains him with her rolling pin.
An incredible guitarist, Wonderland is instrumentally prolific as well, and can blow away her audiences with everything from a trumpet to an electric mandolin.
But it's her powerful, soulful vocals and ability to bring everything she has to her performances that's given her such a loyal following.
Take Wonderland's The Farmer Song, for example, from her 2008 Miss Understood album. The song's theme of the plight and struggle of family farmers (Doesn't anybody here remember/it's the farmer who feeds us all?) might be considered by some to be simplistic and familiar.
But when you actually hear her performing the song, whether it's the studio version or a live performance (see video section below), you can't help but be moved.
There's just something that's so profoundly evocative in her vocals that elevates the song's original message into something much larger.
Art never beats you over the head about an issue. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that art transcends "issues" and politics altogether. And when I hear Carolyn Wonderland's rendering of lyrics such as these:
Not since the dust bowl
Have we felt this forsaken
In the land of plenty
When so little comes down this way
I also hear something else - a simultaneous soulful lament of a much larger disconnect. Indeed, we frequently either forget or even show outright disdain for our interdependence with one another, and I'm not talking primarily about economics.
Carolyn Wonderland - Links, Profiles, and Interviews