I discovered Carolyn Wonderland maybe in 2002 or 2003 when she played a summer festival in Seattle. She told her manager she wanted to play a small, local venue, and thus she was routed to the Lock & Keel on Ballard Avenue, where I and my then girlfriend, Marina worked at the time. She was small and slight and adorable and humble. She was a fantastic guitar player and performer. She was quite personable and kissed Marina full on the mouth as we were all hanging out at the bar after her blistering set. I bought one CD that night, I believe, Alcohol & Salvation. As is my tendency, I eventually had every album she'd recorded and have enjoyed them all. One song, "Walk On," I used a lot to get kids moving while teaching Music at Maple Elementary School.
The other night July 23rd, 2017, she played at the Triple Door to a maybe 1/3 full room. It was Sunday night, but still. I swear watching her show Sunday, I feel like this must have been what it was like for people to see Jimi Hendrix for the first time. She went from 0 - 100 in the first song, and only went up from there. Her energy and intensity never waivered. I've rarely, if ever, seen anything like it. Maybe she had a particularly good night, but I think passion is her standard. She played like a woman possessed channeling spirits from beyond. The guitar was an extension of her body as she rocked back and forth on her chair (broken toe and sciatic problems) with her eyes closed, wild red hair flying all over the place, especially in her face and every note was intentional, well placed, and soulful. She played with furious speed and unrelenting accuracy, barely ever looking at her guitar as her fingers traversed the length of the neck from frets 0 to 21 seamlessly. Did I mention her singing? She has a powerful voice filled with feeling and passion. Honestly, the only show I can remember rivaling her in intensity and sheer force and passion, is Margo Price. She is also a great songwriter and a great song interpreter playing songs by people ranging from Bob Dylan to friends of hers that she wants to honor and give recognition to. She ends every song with a humble thank you with the slight ducking of her head and a warm smile. If you didn't hear her jokes with the audience and the band, you knew she said something funny by her adorable, raspy, almost childlike little cackle after interacting with her band or the audience.
After the show, she met fans, including me and remembered my story from the Lock & Keel. To make it even between me and Marina, she planted one on me (on the cheek).
Carolyn Wonderland is an absolute jewel in the vast catalogue of American Music. Check her out. She's often found in the blues section in record stores (if your town has any of those and you ever visit them), but of course, she is online as well. If you know me, check out my video posts on FB from the show at the Triple Door Sunday night. I haven't seen anything on YouTube that matches the show I saw, but check her out. Her records are great, her shows are better. And next time you discover a band or musician you just love and no one knows, pass it on. :-)