Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Jan. 21, 2005
Carolyn WonderlandSaxon Pub, Jan. 13
With a Groucho-esque waggle of her slender brows, Carolyn Wonderland tossed the red mane of hair matching her Les Paul and looked over her eye-popping rhinestone guitar strap. Smiling to her band through a curl of cigarette smoke, she nodded her head as they slipped into comfortable blues rock. "I've been standing still for hours," she sang plaintively, but those are just words. Carolyn Wonderland has done anything but stand still since leaving Houston, with a passel of awards and enough critical acclaim to load a semi, and moving to Austin, where her profile is considerably lower. That might be partly by choice, for Wonderland is said to have put down the bottle and focused on her music. Indeed, at the Saxon, she was in high spirits with a bottle of water and a hold on her music that was joyous to hear. She talked in wry sentences about the songs, revealing little of herself and no mention of Bob Dylan, who invited her to jam with him not long ago. When she blisters the guitar and cocks her head fetchingly to sing her songs like "I'm Innocent," she stands in the good company of Sue Foley, Debbie Davies, and Bonnie Raitt. But when she whistles, as she does with disarming ease on another of her compositions "I'm the Man," or picks up the trumpet, she's one of a kind. It's partly her voice, coming from some place dark and painful when singing Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell." It's partly the band groove of Cole El-Saleh, Jon Blondell, Scott Daniels, and Charlie Prichard. And it's partly just her sinewy presence. "This is the title track from my CD Bloodless Revolution," she leaned into the mic and announced her last song of the night. And with no chains and only guitar muscle, Carolyn Wonderland released her captive audience.