A musical force equipped with the soulful vocals of Janis and the guitar slinging skills of Stevie Ray, Carolyn Wonderland reaches into the depths of the Texas blues tradition with the wit of a poet. She hits the stage with unmatched presence, a true legend in her time.
“She’d grown up the child of a singer in a band and began playing her mother’s vintage Martin guitar when other girls were dressing dolls. She’d gone from being the teenage toast of her hometown Houston to sleeping in her van in Austin amid heaps of critical acclaim for fine recordings Alcohol & Salvation, Bloodless Revolution, and most recently, Miss Understood.
Along with the guitar and the multitude of other instruments she learned to play – trumpet, accordion, piano, mandolin, lap steel – Wonderland’s ability to whistle remains most unusual. Whistling is a uniquely vocal art seldom invoked in modern music, yet it’s among the most spectacular talents the human voice possesses.
That vocal proficiency was well-established in the singer’s midteens, landing her gigs at Fitzgerald’s by age 15. She absorbed Houston influences like Little Screamin’ Kenny and soaked up the Mad Hatter of Texas music, Doug Sahm. The Lone Star State was as credible and fertile a proving ground for blues in the 1980s as existed, especially in Austin with Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Angela Strehli, Omar & the Howlers, and Lou Ann Barton all in their prime. By the following decade, Austin’s blues luster thinned, but Houston, always a bastion of soul and R&B, boasted the Imperial Monkeys with the effervescent Carolyn Wonderland as ruler of the jungle.
In the early 1990s Wonderland & the Imperial Monkeys were invited to the Guadalupe Street Antone’s in Austin. There, they were treated like royalty with the singer as the queen of hearts in the club’s post-Stevie Ray Vaughan stable, which included Toni Price, Johnny and Jay Moeller, Sue Foley, Mike and Corey Keller, and the Ugly Americans. It was a good bar for the Monkeys to hang, and Austin felt so comfortable that when the band called it quits a few years later, she set her sights on Austin at the start of the millennium.
Austin’s Guy Forsyth has long enjoyed praise for his dazzling live shows and rich Americana roots sound. Forsyth (vocals, acoustic, electric & slide guitar, harmonica, ukulele, singing saw) usually performs with his band, but has been known to perform as a solo artist, and in various incarnations including a duo with Oliver Steck (Bob Schneider’s band). His songs incorporate a unique mixture of styles and his sound is at once polished, raw, compelling and irresistibly rump-shaking.
Forsyth brought his skills as a stellar live performer to help found and eventually drive to international acclaim the theatrical acoustic group The Asylum Street Spankers. He gave Wammo his first washboard and Christina Marrs her first guitar and ukulele. His time with the Spankers touring and recording 5 albums added to a wealth of earlier unique experiences in his life – working as a stuntman in renaissance shows, busking on the streets of New Orleans and playing on a mountain top in Nepal –which provided him musical fodder to be refined in the songs of Forsyth’s numerous solo albums.
Guy has recently finished recording his new album, “The Freedom To Fail”, which is due to be released early summer 2012 (let’s call it June), which will be followed immediately by an extensive American and European tour. The new album was produced by Matt Smith at Lost Oasis Studios.
The release of his latest, Calico Girl, which features new songs as well as re-recordings of some of Guy’s most popular songs from 1999’s Can You Live Without, marks the fourth album for the record label he started in 2002, Small and Nimble Records.