Carolyn Wonderland -Tempting Fate | Album Review

Carolyn Wonderland -Tempting Fate

Alligator Records

10 tracks.43 minutes

Carolyn Wonderland toured the globe with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for the past three years. She proudly is the first woman to handle the guitar for Mayall’s band and she is certainly up to the task. I’m not big on labeling guitar players by their gender; suffice it to say that Carolyn Wonderland is a hugely talented master of the six stringed instrument and can hold her own with any guitar player.

Growing up in Texas and fronting her own bands in public since age 15, Wonderland has produced some great music over her career.  Her signing to Alligator Records and this brand new release really showcases her talent as a guitar player, singer and songwriter. Mixing truly interesting covers with fantastic original songs, Wonderland has created a big hit with this new record. I fully expect it to garner notice in the next sets of music awards for 2022.

The base band is Wonderland on guitars and vocals, Bobby Perkins on bass and Kevin Lange on drums (and backing vocals on the next to last track). Produced by Dave Alvin, he also appears on rhythm guitar on three cuts and does second lead on the final cut. Red Young plays organ and piano on four tracks and Marcia Ball adds her piano to the second track. Cindy Cashdollar plays lapsteel on two tracks, Shelly King’s backing vocals grace three tracks and Jimmie Dale Gilmore sings with Carolyn on the Dylan tune. Last but not least is Jan Flemming who plays accordion on a couple of tracks.

The CD opens with some wickedly cool lapsteel guitar by Wonderland on “Fragile Peace and Certain War,” a rowdy, country blues as Wonderland howls out the lyrics and blazes on guitar. She continues with a slick Texas shuffle entitled “Texas Girl and Her Boots.” Carolyn sings and plays with passion and the barrelhouse piano by Ball makes this cut even better. Next is “Broken Hearted Blues,” some straight up blues with grit and big emotion.  “Fortunate Few” also has some nice piano as Wonderland again sings with grit and wails on guitar. “Crack In the Wall” hearkens back to outlaw country with cool lapsteel and accordion. It’s a pretty, slow dance song that would do any Texas dance hall proud; well done! Wonderland sings with desperation and great feeling here. At one point, the chorus reminded me a little of Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille” as it flowed on by.

“The Laws Must Change” is a John Mayall song, with organ and a big, upfront guitar presence and a great solo by Wonderland. She sings and howls with great effect here. The second cover is Billy Jo Shaver’s “Honey Bee” where we get some more cool squeezebox and nice harmonies, very cajun and very cool sounding. Wonderland move into the lounge as she croons with the tinkling of the piano and beat of the bass and brushes on her original “On My Feet Again.” She even whistles for us and plays some thoughtful guitar. Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” is next. Carolyn shares fronting the band with Gilmore. Lapsteel and electric guitar make themselves known in this one, another great cut. Jerry Garcia’s “Loser” take things home on the album. Wonderland and Alvin play some pretty guitar licks as Carolyn sings this Grateful Dead classic. It builds and builds in fine fashion and serves as a superb ending to this wonderful Wonderland CD.

Carolyn has been honing her craft since her teens and this is her 11th album. She is a remarkable guitar player and singer.  I have always enjoyed her work, and this is perhaps her best effort ever– there are six prime original tunes and four excellent covers. The band and backing musicians are outstanding and the overall production is amazing. This is an album that belongs in your collection– I highly recommend it!

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