" Carolyn Wonderland "

Wonderland one cannot help to hear some influences of Janis Joplin, add to the mix her hot guitar licks reminiscent of a cross-section of several great Texas guitarists and you have one very special and developing artist. But forget about the references, this very hip lady shows off a lot of individuality and style. Wonderland's most recent recording, Miss Understood, was produced by Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson and often focuses on rocking Blues, but she's definitely more than a Blueswoman, as Wonderland writes her own strong songs, performs ballads and covers, stings the guitar across various genres, and is one heck of Soul singer, too.

Bob Putignano for BluesWax: How are you doing, Carolyn?

Carolyn Wonderland: I am alright. I just got back from Arkansas for a gig and just arrived back home this morning.

BW: Your new CD, Miss Understood, often captures the raw power of your live performances, how is the record doing?

CW: Miss Understood is doing really well, thanks for asking.

BW: Are you misunderstood?

CW: Occasionally I am. [Laughs]

BW: For those readers who might not be that familiar with you, give us a little backdrop of your history in the music business. You originated in Houston, correct?

CW: I did start in Houston and always went to the Blues jams when I was a kid. I got to play with guys like Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Jerry Lightfoot, Little Screaming Kenny, and I was fortunate to start hanging out at some recording studios too, and started recording my own music. I've got seven CDs out now.

BW: Very impressive to start out at such a young age and this new CD is really nice. You have this association with the Asleep At The Wheel folks, too.

CW: It's a beautiful thing and a real blessing to work with Ray Benson of Asleep At The Wheel, who makes me work real hard, but it's a whole lot of fun, too. We had the luxury of having time to try a lot of new stuff for the new record. We had a ball doing it and I hope we do it again.

BW: Seeing you perform live was really riveting. I saw you twice last year in Austin, once at that Road To Austin show where Bonnie Raitt sat in with you and again at Antone's the next night for the Austin Blues Society kickoff party.

CW: It was a great night at the Road to Austin show and I felt like I got a free guitar lesson from Bonnie that night! Stephen Bruton, the music director and guitarist for that night, put on a great show. That man rocks! And Antone's was a fun night, too, and it was great to see Delbert [McClinton] there that night as well.

BW: Do you get to play often at Antone's?

CW: Anywhere and everywhere we can. And it's great honor when you get to play at Antone's. It thrills me to play there; I love that. We get in there several times a year.

BW: Did you know Clifford [Antone]?

CW: Oh yeah, actually the first time I played out of town from Houston, Clifford had invited us to play there. I was just a teenager at the time. Clifford was very good to a lot of teenaged musicians, as he'd let you in his club and let you understand that this is what the music is about and perhaps you shouldn't be drinking. [More laughs]

BW: That had to be pretty special as a teenager to be selected and invited by Clifford to play at his club.

CW: I was pretty darned charmed I have to say.

BW: Was it at that time that you had thoughts of moving to Austin? Which, by the way, musically speaking, is such a great city.

CW: Austin is the land of free guitar lessons. I loved Houston and still do, but I do love Austin as well, but I thought it was time for a change to move there, plus Houston isn't that far away. Fortunately we are on the road a lot now, but I certainly love Austin.

BW: Last year was my first and only trip there and I was blown away by the amount of talent and good music there. Actually, I've been looking for another excuse to get back there.

CW: There are all kinds of excuses to come on back to Austin, plus the weather is great here, too.

BW: The scene there is so hot, what do you think makes Austin so special?

CW: I'm not certain if it is what's in the air or the water, but I tell you what, for as many musicians as there are in Austin and for as many places as there are to play, you would think that it would be really competitive here, but it's not. It's all about camaraderie here, it truly is. Everybody is in everyone's bands, too, so it's really great.

BW: It used to be like this in New York City years ago, though I am not sure about camaraderie, but there was a great scene of studio musicians here that were very busy making recordings for Atlantic, CTI, Prestige, Blue Note, and on and on, but that's all a thing of the past now.

CW: I bet New York City will ebb and flow eventually, something beautiful is bound to come out. It's a great town with a whole lot of diverse talent. New York has always been a place where something new comes out of, so that's always great to listen for.

BW: I am always hoping for that pendulum to swing back here. Speaking of New York, there's been some talk about you visiting us soon?

CW: Yeah, we're going to play at the Rochester Festival and while we are up there we'll swing by and say "Howdy." And if we are lucky and get a Monday night off I want to sneak in to see Les Paul play at the Iridium, which would be my favorite band fieldtrip ever.

BW: Getting back to your new CD, Miss Understood, the cover of Rick Derringer's "Still Alive and Well," which was performed by Johnny Winter, is killer, you and your band really nailed it.

CW: Ah, thanks, man, you know I play that song a lot live and I do that song as a tribute to Uncle John Turner, who was Winter's drummer for some time, who passed on about a year ago. When I was a teenager he was one of my first drummers in Houston, we met when I just happened to move across the street from him in the Heights. So, just like Clifford Antone, he helped me out and taught me what was what in music. I was really happy that Uncle John got to hear my version of "Still Alive and Well" and he gave it his seal of approval, which really touched me. So that song is for him, that's an Uncle John Turner song.

BW: It's sweet to have that nice history behind that cover. But I would like to add that your writing is also very strong and you are quite a nice package of a musician that has strong vocals, a very tasteful and wicked guitar, and you write songs well too; your talents are not a common combination.

CW: Thanks, and you know, the more you play, the less you stink at it. [Laughs]

BW: I'm curious, please tell me your influences growing up?

CW: First it was my mom and then the scene around while I was growing up in Houston. Fortunately it was the guys in the Blues scene that were kind and forgiving to lend their time to some chick.

BW: And even Bob Dylan has sought you out.

CW: Yeah, he's a real cool cat. It's a great honor to have someone like that give you a holler. Plus it's even cooler to find out that he's a real sweet cat.

BW: So you got to hang with Dylan?

CW: Yeah, a couple of times. It was a beautiful thing. Jamming with him was a wonderful thing. He's a really giving guitar player as he nudges you in the right places, he's just so cool!

BW: Plus the Grateful Dead's Vince Welnick has been in bands with you from time to time, too.

CW: We were all in the Jerry Lightfoot band together, we actually recorded one pretty big record together; don't know if you can find it, Texistentialism, which also had Frosty on drums. Jerry wrote the lion's share of the music on that recording and I wound up being the singer in that band. That record shaped the way I now write my songs and do things the way I do. Plus Vince is just one of those cats that has a million chords, a true genius.

BW: Neat. It's also good to hear that you are getting on the road a lot now.

CW: Yeah, we did spend some time at home making the record and got a little spoiled with our own beds and showers, but I'm excited about being out there touring all over the place this summer. And if anyone wants to come with us to someplace fun, then shoot, join us in Amsterdam! Every November we go there for my birthday. The cool thing is that the more people that go, not only is it more fun, but it becomes cheaper. It's called www.WonderjaminAmsterdam.com.

BW: Oh my God, you all must have a blast there!

CW: We have a ball for sure, the people are very friendly, for the most part they all speak English there and the weather is still pretty okay at that time of year, too.

BW: If I remember my last visit there, It's a little cloudy there at that time of the year in more ways than one.

CW: That's right! Plus there is so much else to see, it's a great country where you can walk to everything.

BW: I have to talk to you more about Wonderjam in Amsterdam, as I would like to make the trip. CW: Come on and join us!

BW: Carolyn, what more would you like to say before I let you go?

CW: Take a chance on live music, and I hope people like the stuff that we do and if you come out to see us please come by and say hello, I'd be tickled. And if you would like to drop us a line we are also on www.myspace.com/CarolynWonderland. And Bob, I can't thank you enough for the chance to be heard man;, it's really sweet.

BW: Thank you Carolyn and as I say to everyone, if I did not like what you are doing musically, this would not be happening.

CW: That's too cool. Take care, Bob.

Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Bob at: bob8003@yahoo.com web site www.SoundsofBlue.com .

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com