Marcia Ball

“Fifty years have passed in a flash,” says Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist, songwriter and vocalist Marcia Ball of her long and storied career. Ball, the 2018 Texas State Musician Of The Year, has won worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. With each new release, her reputation as a profoundly soulful singer, a boundlessly talented pianist and a courageous, inventive songwriter continues to grow. Her love of the road has led to years of soul-satisfying performances at festivals, concert halls and clubs. The New York Times says, “Marcia Ball plays two-fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time.” The Houston Chronicle says simply, “She’s as perfect as an artist can be.” 

With her new album, Shine Bright, Ball set out to, in her words, “Make the best Marcia Ball record I could make.” In doing so, she has put together the most musically substantial, hopeful and uplifting set of songs of her five-decade career. Produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and recorded in Texas and Louisiana, Shine Bright contains twelve songs (including nine originals), ranging from the title track’s rousing appeal for public and private acts of courage to the upbeat call to action of Pots And Pans, a song inspired by renowned Texas political writer and humorist Molly Ivins. From the humorous advice of Life Of The Party to the poignantly optimistic World Full Of Love, the intensity of Ball’s conviction never wavers while, simultaneously, the fun never stops. Shine Bright is exactly the album Ball set out to make. “It is a ridiculously hopeful, cheerful record,” she says, in light of some of the album’s more serious subject matter. The secret, according to Ball “is to set the political songs to a good dance beat.”   

Born in Orange, Texas in 1949 to a family whose female members all played piano, Ball grew up in the small town of Vinton, Louisiana, right across the border from Texas. She began taking piano lessons at age five, playing old Tin Pan Alley and popular music tunes from her grandmother’s collection. But it wasn’t until she was 13 that Marcia discovered the power of soul music. One day in New Orleans in 1962, she sat amazed as Irma Thomas delivered the most spirited and moving performance the young teenager had ever seen. A few years later she attended Louisiana State University, where she played some of her very first gigs with a blues-based rock band called Gum.  In

1970, Ball set out for San Francisco. Her car broke down in Austin, and while waiting for repairs she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn’t long before she was performing in local clubs with a progressive country band called Freda And The Firedogs, while beginning to sharpen her songwriting skills. It was around this time that she delved deeply into the music of the great New Orleans piano players, especially Professor Longhair. “Once I found out about Professor Longhair,” recalls Ball, “I knew I had found my direction.” 

When Freda And The Firedogs broke up in 1974, Ball launched her solo career, playing clubs around Austin, Houston and Louisiana. She signed with Capitol Records in 1978, debuting with the country-rock album Circuit Queen. Creating and honing her own sound, she released six critically acclaimed titles on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1990, Ball— collaborating with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton—recorded the hugely successful Dreams Come True on the Antone’s label. At the end of 1997, Marcia finished work on a similar “three divas of the blues” project for Rounder, this time in the distinguished company of Tracy Nelson and her longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The CD, Sing It!, was released in 1998 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. 

Marcia Ball has appeared many times on national television over the years, including the PBS special In Performance At The White House along with B.B. King and Della Reese, Austin City Limits and HBO’s Treme. She performed in Piano Blues, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese’s The Blues series which aired on PBS television nationwide in 2003. Marcia also appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman with The New Orleans Social Club, where she not only reached millions of people, but also helped to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, she had a role in the independent film Angels Sing starring Harry Connick, Jr., Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson. In 2017 she performed on NPR’s A Jazz Piano Christmas, live from The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.       

Ball joined Alligator in 2001 with the release of the critically acclaimed Presumed Innocent. The CD won the 2002 Blues Music Award for Blues Album Of The Year. Her follow-up, So Many Rivers, was nominated for a Grammy Award, and won the 2004 Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year as well as the coveted Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year award. Her next release, Live! Down The Road, released in 2005, also garnered a Grammy nomination, as did 2008’s Peace, Love & BBQ (the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart). 2010’s Grammy-nominated Roadside Attractions and 2014’s The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man successfully grew her fan base even further. Altogether she holds ten Blues Music Awards, ten Living Blues Awards, and five Grammy Award nominations. She has been inducted into both the Gulf Coast Music Hall Of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame. The Texas State legislature named her the official 2018 Texas State Musician. As her hometown Austin Chronicle says, “What’s not to like about Marcia Ball?” 

Since joining Alligator, Ball has blossomed as a songwriter. Each album has been filled with fresh, original songs, never more so than on Shine Bright. Ball easily draws her listeners deep into her music with instantly memorable melodies and imaginative imagery. Her songs paint vibrant musical pictures richly detailed with recognizable characters, regional flavors, universal themes and colorful scenes, both real and imagined. Living Blues declares, “Her originals sound like timeless classics and southern soul masterpieces that no one else can imitate.” 

Now, with Shine Bright, Ball’s new, aggressively hopeful songs are energized by Steve Berlin’s inventive and exciting production, creating electrifying music that is daring, inspired, poignant and timely. The Boston Globe calls Ball “a compelling storyteller” who plays “an irresistible, celebratory blend of rollicking, two-fisted New Orleans piano, Louisiana swamp rock and smoldering Texas blues.” 

Of course, Ball will bring the party on the road, playing her new songs and old favorites for fans around the globe. “I still love the feel of the wheels rolling,” she says, “and the energy in a room full of people ready to go wherever it is we take them.” With both her new album and her legendary live performances, Marcia Ball will shine a light into the darkness, making the world a brighter place one song at a time. 

Carolyn Wonderland

“Mighty and joyous rock-injected blues…luxurious vocals and fine guitar work. Her voice is as muscular as her name is evocative.” – Austin Chronicle

“Carolyn Wonderland is the real deal. She’s an amazing guitar player. And damn, can she sing.” – Los Angeles Times

“With incendiary guitar chops and raw, powerful vocals, fiery Texas blues rocker Carolyn Wonderland draws instant comparisons to fellow Texans Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin.” –NPR Music

“Hey, have you heard Carolyn Wonderland? She’s something else. She should be nationwide.” – Bob Dylan, talking to Asleep At The Wheel’s Ray Benson

The depths of the Texas blues tradition with the wit of a poet. She hits the stage with an 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 excellent recordings.

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, Albert Collins, Lavelle White, Jerry Lightfoot, Joe “Guitar” Hughes, Little Joe Washington, “borrowed” a car to sneak out and jam ended up swapping songs with Townes Van Zandt at Houston’s Local’s on White Oak, got involved in the underground theater scene becoming the first “Photochick” in Jason Nodler’s “In the Under Thunderloo” and soaked up touring bands like the Paladins, Los Lobos, and the Mad Hatter of Texas music, Doug Sahm. Her music played in television series such as “Time of Your Life” and NBC’s “Homicide.” The Lone Star State was as credible a proving ground for blues in the 1980s and 90s 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, after a run-in with black ice and a semi that wound young Miss Wonderland in the hospital, she set her sights on Austin at the start of the millennium. Besides, Doug Sahm had told Carolyn while they were signing autographs together at the High Sierra Music Festival, she ought to move to Austin, as it was the land of free guitar lessons. She was there in months.

Living in Austin renewed Carolyn Wonderland’s focus on her multiple talents, underlining rich vocals with excellent guitar work, trumpet, and piano, as well as that remarkable ability to whistle on key. Despite spending two years homeless (or as she puts it, “van-full,”) Austin has been fertile ground for Carolyn. A series of each-better-than-the-next discs began with Alcohol & Salvation in 2001 (“songs about booze and God; records are a time capsule of what happened that year”) 2003’s “Bloodless Revolution,” The Bismeaux Releases: 2008’s “Miss Understood,” 2011’s “Peace Meal” (recorded at Bismeaux and Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock,) 2015’s “Live Texas Trio”; and here we are with 2017’s “Moon Goes Missing.”

Carolyn also got to stretch out with other bands and notably appears in Jerry Lightfoot’s Band of Wonder’s 2002 release, “Texistentialism” featuring Jerry Lightfoot, Vince Welnick (Grateful Dead, The Tubes, Todd Rundgren,) Carolyn, Barry “Frosty” Smith (Lee Michaels, Sly & the Family Stone, Rare Earth, Soulhat) and Larry Fulcher (Taj Mahal, Phantom Blues Band). She has released many songs for charity, 2016’s “Room at the Inn” (iTunes) benefits Doctors Without Borders, 2013’s “Money in the Game” (featuring Marcia Ball and Shelley King) benefits Planned Parenthood, “the Farmer Song” from “Miss Understood” benefits Farm AID, “Annie’s Scarlet Letter” from “Bloodless Revolution” benefits NORML, 1997 Justice Records released Carolyn’s version of Little Screamin’ Kenny’s holiday lament, “Blue Lights” (featuring Ian McLagan) benefitting MD Anderson Children’s Art Project.

Carolyn’s first appearance on vinyl? She’s with James Williamson (Stooges) on the April 2014 Record Store Day single, “Open Up & Bleed” AND on the full LP inspired by that fun session, “Re-Licked” featuring Raw Power Era songs with cool and risky guests.

Her circle of musician friends and admirers broadened to include not only Ray [Benson, who produced Miss Understood] but also the late Eddy Shaver, Shelley King, and yes, Bob Dylan, who likened her composition “Bloodless Revolution” to “a mystery movie theme.” She appeared on the same taping with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings when she made her debut on PBS’ “Austin City Limits” (Season 35.) and had the thrill of her life when Bonnie Raitt joined her onstage for “The Road to Austin” concert film featuring Stephen Bruton and all his friends, got to play with James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, and so many others at Antone’s, she and Erin Jaimes put together a benefit for Uncle John Turner and Johnny Winter insisted on bringing his band by to play, Carolyn’s wedding to A. Whitney Brown was officiated by Mike Nesmith (Monkees,) who serendipitously introduced them on set at VideoRanch in 2010. (there is a video of the two of them on stage together that day!) She began co-writing with locals Sarah Brown, Shelley King, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Cindy Cashdollar, and Guy Forsyth; sat in with Los Lobos, Levon Helm, Vintage Trouble, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard; and toured relentlessly for the past two decades, sometimes with luminaries like Dave Alvin, Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter, so far spreading her music in US, Europe, South America and Japan. She also claims membership in the all-girl Sis Deville, the gospel-infused Imperial Crown Golden Harmonizers, the Texas Guitar Women, and the Woodstock Lonestars.

Carolyn recently joined John Mayall’s Band as his guitarist and is balancing life on the road with writing time at home and on the way. She’s been touring for over 25 years and ain’t done yet. Come and see it at a show! (seriously, she’s perpetually on tour.)

Shelley King

Superlative, powerhouse, smart and savvy are only a few of the adjectives used to describe Shelley King, who is debuting her 9th album, Kick Up Your Heels, in the late summer of 2019.

The blues, roots-rock, gospel singer stands out in the crowd as an award-winning songwriter, steeped in Americana music. Born in Arkansas, and raised back and forth between Arkansas and Texas, Shelley has surrounded herself with A-list mentors from Marcia Ball to John Magnie and Delbert McClinton.

Kick Up Your Heels is her best effort yet, with guest artists Delbert McClinton, The Subdudes, Marcia Ball, Carolyn Wonderland, Tony Redman, Byron Isaacs (Lumineers) and Cindy Cashdollar. Her band includes Sarah Brown on bass, Marvin Dykhuis on guitars, vocals and mandolin, and Chip Dolan on keys and accordion, and longtime drummer, Perry Drake.

Shelley says, “It feels like a party album. In a time when we have so many challenges as a people and as a country, we need this music. We can let it all go. We all have a weight to carry, but we need to have some fun. I feel that in some of these songs, there are trials and tribulations, but with good music and good friends, it always feels like we are going to come out on top.”

Kick Up Your Heels runs the gamut of emotions, beginning with an introspective memory of one of her musical heroes, Levon Helm. The album’s opening track, “Levon’s New Drumset” had its beginning as she was sitting on a porch in Woodstock, New York, collecting words and images for this song but not completing it. Over several more trips to Woodstock she reworked the lyrics, each time adding a little more to the story. Inspiration struck again when she was playing a Midnight Ramble with the Woodstock Lone Stars: a super-group including Carolyn Wonderland, Marcia Ball, Cindy Cashdollar, Amy Helm, and a Woodstock based rhythm section. “It completely fell together – magically.” she recalls. “I wrote another verse right there, and it came together seamlessly, without a wrong word.”

“Storming in the South” takes the listeners through the hurricanes that rip through the South and the high winds in a relationship between two people who have chosen to take it on, go through it together, and come out on the other side. It is a song of resilience, and of sticking together, and making it through the storm.

The album brings on the party full-force with “Hurricane Party.” Shelley said she was walking on a trail near her Texas hill country home, when her friend and mentor, Marcia Ball called to say her Florida tour was canceled because of a hurricane, “so, let’s play dominoes.” Shelley said,

“It’s a hurricane party!” and immediately started working on this song. She sang lines into her phone, texting song verses back and forth, co-writing with Marcia, it all came together before she got off the trail – in time for a game of dominoes! Delbert McClinton and Marcia bring guest vocals to this highlight of the album. It’s definitely a party. Levon Helm and Henry Glover wrote a song called “Blues So Bad,” that Shelley discovered on a 1977 Helm album. That song stuck with her. “Anytime I heard it, I sang along. It makes me feel cool. In the studio, Delbert (McClinton) played harmonica and sang backup on it.” Yeah, that’ll make anyone feel cool.

“One Shot At A Time” is a song Shelley wrote years ago about a bar in San Angelo, Texas. “People were having a good time and were so drunk.” she recalls. “They were sending shots to the band and eventually shots were lined up all the way across the stage. Everyone in the band gets to have some fun with this one: from Marvin Dykhuis’ and Tony Redmans’ duelling lead guitars to Sarah Brown’s low-end bass solo.

The title song, “Kick Up Your Heels,” is a co-write with another of Shelley’s heroes, John Magnie of the Subdudes. “John came up with the melody and turned it over to me to write the lyrics,” she says. “We were thinking about writing a song for Marcia (Ball), right after she recorded Tattoo Lady and the Alligator Man, feeling that Louisiana rhythm and how she kicks her heels when she plays piano. When I recorded it with my band, it was good, but it was missing something, so we got the Subdudes to add a little crazy.” Steve Amedée lays down a fun second line snare rhythm and the dudes add their rich harmonies and fun extras. Marcia Ball plays piano and John Magnie backs her on accordion, a first time musical collaboration for them.

One of Shelley’s inspirations has always been Aretha Franklin, and “Soulville” showcases that influence. “I first discovered Aretha Franklin’s version of this song and then later Dinah Washington’s version. Dinah was one of the songwriters, along with Henry Glover. I started doing a little research, and found that Henry was tight with Levon (Helm), and is even in one of the early photos of Levon building his barn in Woodstock.” Henry soon became another of Shelley’s songwriter favorites, (see “Blues So Bad,” a Helm/Glover co-write) and completes yet another circle of influence in her musical odyssey. Ask Shelley to tell you about rehearsing in Levon’s barn on the anniversary of his death with her good friends, a good bottle of whiskey, and a ghost for good measure.

“Heart of a Girl” showcases Shelley’s songwriter and vocal talent, and a backstory of romantic magic. “I still believe magic can happen. The idea came to me as I watched my mom fall in love again. Here was a no-nonsense businesswoman who reunited with my real father at one of my shows. They had not seen one another for more than 30 years,” Shelley says. “And suddenly, she had that soft heart of a girl, that innocence that believes in hopefulness. To see her like that was beautiful.”

Keeping the party going strong, Shelley brings “Crush” to the mix. “It’s a fun, groupie song. I won’t call any names out on this one. Someone close to me had a groupie crush on a bad boy musician, and I wrote that song for her just for fun.” With lines like “If you got somebody, I’ll make you forget her,” and “Would you rock my world like you rock that mic?,” it’s definitely a celebration song that makes everyone want to grab a mic and sing along.”

A pivotal moment in her career was in 2008, when Shelley was named Texas State Musician by the Texas Legislature, and found her voice resonating with fans across the state – and the nation. “‘How Eagles Fly’ is about hope and positivity: an anthem for America. There’s a whole lot of division out there,” Shelley continues, “but ultimately, we are all in this together. We have a lot more in common than that which separates us. Music brings us together, and everyone can agree with lyrics that speak to the common American dream.”

Kick Up Your Heels is a high-water mark for Shelley King. Through multiple incarnations of bands with friends and collaborators, and performing at hundreds of house concerts, honkytonks, theatres, festivals and solo shows, she has explored different avenues and attitudes, but she has hit her stride with this new project. She proves with this album, created with her musical friends and family, that music is much more than a career for her. “It’s all about connections,” she says. And Kick Up Your Heels brings Shelley King’s band family together for a reunion that is one hell of a party.

Carolyn Wonderland

“The more guitar you play, the more you sing, the better you get,” says award-winning Texas guitar slinger, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Carolyn Wonderland. Since performing her first professional gig at age 15, she’s never stopped singing and making music. Her music includes a bold mix of timeless original songs and reinventions of some of her favorites, ranging from blistering electric blues to deep, heartfelt ballads to cosmic country to soulful Tex-Mex. Every song is fueled by Wonderland’s forceful yet melodic Texas-flavored guitar work and her full-throated, heart-on-her-sleeve vocals. She’s recorded ten previous albums under her own name, including four produced by famed musician Ray Benson, founder of multiple Grammy-winning band Asleep At The Wheel. Wonderland, who spent the last three years as lead guitarist in John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, now joins the Alligator Records family as the first female guitar hero in the label’s storied 50-year history. Her spine-chilling, soul-deep singing matches her guitar prowess note for note. And she has a knack for writing songs that sound like instant classics. Her Alligator Records debut, the Dave Alvin-produced Tempting Fate, is the next chapter in Wonderland’s remarkable story, one that is already overflowing with countless and colorful once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

On Tempting Fate, Wonderland delivers ten riveting songs, including five fiery originals (and one co-write with her Mayall bandmate Greg Rzab). On every song—from the searing, guitar-heavy Broken Hearted Blues to the tender and poignant Crack In The Wall to the very Texan love song for her boot collection, Texas Girl And Her Boots, to the politically-charged Fragile Peace And Certain War to the take-no-prisoners version of the Grateful Dead’s Loser—Wonderland throws herself completely into the music. Her shining duet with Jimmie Dale Gilmore on Bob Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry redefines the song. Her explosive guitar work and commanding vocals on John Mayall’s The Laws Must Change makes his song hers.

In addition to her longtime road band—bassist Bobby Perkins and drummer Kevin Lance—who anchor every song, guests on Tempting Fate include Gilmore, Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel guitar, Marcia Ball on piano, Shelley King on background vocals, Jan Flemming on accordion and Red Young on organ and piano, with producer Dave Alvin playing guitar on three songs. “I can’t wait to share the new album,” says Wonderland. “I got to record a dream list of songs and play with a dream list of people. And Dave really got me to kick the doors in. And it’s hip to be on Alligator. If you could see my record collection, it’s full of Alligator albums.”

Alvin told writer Michael Corcoran, “I wanted to work with Carolyn because her guitar playing isn’t imitating anyone. She is especially not imitating the imitators, like so many modern blues or blues/rock guitarists do. She developed her own effective way of playing the blues that incorporate bits of folk, country and even psychedelic riffs, plus she always surprises me with her guitar lines and melodic twists and turns. As for Carolyn’s vocals, they are soulful and powerful to the point of being often spine-tingling. Her ability to move from intimate, whispery gentleness to earth shaking, Saturday night bar room loudness, always impresses me, both for the obvious gifts of her vocal range but also how well she uses it to advance the drama or the story of the song. I also love that Carolyn has a wonderful, mischievous sense of humor that makes her performances honest and charming and keep them far away from getting too bogged down in too much serious ‘artiste’ posturing.”

Carolyn Wonderland, born Carolyn Bradford in Houston, Texas in 1972, grew up in a house full of music and instruments. She first starting making music at age six, and by eight had decided, in her own mind, that she was a musician. After she scratched up her mother’s vintage Martin guitar by imitating Pete Townsend’s famous windmill move, she was forbidden from using a pick. Because of that, she developed her aggressive, distinctive finger-picking guitar attack. Her early influences include her mom, Houston guitar legends Albert Collins, Jerry Lightfoot, Joe “Guitar” Hughes, and Little Screamin’ Kenny, as well as blues and soul vocalist Lavelle White. Singing came naturally, as did learning to play just about every instrument she got her hands on. She plays trumpet, accordion, lap steel, piano, and mandolin.  She’s a whistler, too. Her renowned whistling can be heard to great effect on her song, On My Feet Again.

By age 15, she was performing at Houston’s famed Fitzgerald’s club, playing solo or with friends. As a 16-year-old, she found herself swapping songs with Townes Van Zandt. She formed her first band when she was 17, and began proving herself on the tough, competitive Houston club scene. A year later, she joined forces with famed Houston musician Little Screamin’ Kenny and formed The Imperial Monkeys. Before long, Carolyn Wonderland And The Imperial Monkeys were swinging high on the vine, touring as far as Utah, New York and South Dakota, and winning every music award Houston had to offer. A booking at Austin’s famous Antone’s club left a strong mark on Wonderland, who moved to Austin in 1999 at the urging of Doug Sahm (who told her, “It’s the land of free guitar lessons”). For two years she traveled with her band in her van, and stayed with friends in Austin and on the road, trading chores for meals and lodging. “I wasn’t home-less,” she says. “I was van-full.”

Wonderland released Alcohol & Salvation in 2001 on a tiny local label. The self-released Bloodless Revolution followed in 2003, and brought her new fans, along with local press and radio attention. Her growing reputation as a hotter-than-fire live performer kept her touring calendar full. Then one day in 2003, legendary musician Ray Benson was having lunch with his friend Bob Dylan, who had heard Wonderland’s music. Dylan asked Benson, “Hey, have you heard Carolyn Wonderland? She’s something else.” Dylan wanted to meet Wonderland, so Benson got her number from a mutual friend and called her in Houston, telling Wonderland to get to Austin immediately to meet Dylan. She drove the 165 miles in record time, and they had great fun jamming that night. They’ve crossed paths since, sometimes jamming, sometimes just talking about music (“He’s a real musicologist,” she says of Bob). Dylan once asked Wonderland to write bawdy answer lyrics to his already-ribald Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat, and all but fell over laughing when she played the newly rewritten song for him. “Sometimes he’ll just call,” Wonderland says. “I haven’t changed my number.”

Wonderland’s first Ray Benson-produced album, Miss Understood, came out on Benson’s Bismeaux label in 2008. Upon its release, the mayor of Austin declared “Carolyn Wonderland Day” throughout the city. Benson produced her next three albums, Peace Meal in 2011, Live Texas Trio in 2015 (both on Bismeaux) and Moon Goes Missing (on Home Records) in 2017. According to Benson, “Carolyn’s got that unbelievable, incredible voice, one of the great voices of our times. She’s got the range, the emotion. She’s also an incredible guitar player and a great person. The combination is disarming and totally real. That’s magic.”

The popular and critical response to Wonderland and her music has been nothing short of amazing. She’s appeared on Austin City Limits, NPR’s Weekend Edition and NPR Music’s Mountain Stage. Features and reviews have run in publications from The Los Angeles Times to The Boston Herald. Her music has been heard on FOX-TV’s Time Of Your Life and on NBC’s Homicide. She appears, playing on stage alongside Bonnie Raitt, in the film The Road To Austin. She’s won multiple Austin Music Awards and was inducted into the Austin Music Hall Of Fame in 2020. She’s jammed with musicians including Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, James Cotton, Los Lobos, Vintage Trouble, Robert Earl Keen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Levon Helm. Helm invited her to begin all of her tours with a performance at his famous Ramble in Woodstock, New York. “He always refreshed and recharged us before we hit the road,” Wonderland says.

In 2018, legendary musician and bandleader John Mayall chose Wonderland to be lead guitarist in his band, The Blues Breakers. She became the first woman to ever hold that position. (The all-star list of Mayall’s legendary guitarists includes Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Coco Montoya and Walter Trout.) She toured the world with Mayall, once playing 50 shows in 60 days in 19 countries. She’s also played with her own band all over the U.S. and in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Canary Islands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Japan.

In addition to her performing and recording with her own band, Wonderland has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Jerry Lightfoot’s Band of Wonder (featuring the Grateful Dead’s Vince Welnick), The Loose Affiliation Of Saints And Sinners (with Papa Mali, Guy Forsyth and others), and James Williamson (The Stooges). She can also occasionally be found singing and playing in Sis Deville, the Imperial Crown Golden Harmonizers, the Austin Volunteer Orchestra, the Texas Guitar Women, and the Woodstock Lonestars.

Wonderland also works tirelessly for a wide variety of charitable and social causes. She has often donated proceeds from her music to benefit organizations including Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, Farm Aid, NORML and the M.D. Anderson Children’s Art Project. She is a founding member, along with Marcia Ball, of H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers), which provides emergency financial assistance to older Austin-based musicians in need.

Wonderland married her husband, humorist A. Whitney Brown, in a ceremony on Austin’s Doug Sahm Hill, performed by Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, and documented in The New York Times’ “Vow” section. Nesmith, who had previously produced a song for Wonderland on her Peace Meal album, says, “When she goes into that mode where she decides to grab the heart of the song and hold it up for everybody to see, it’s just so searing. Nothing can be this raw. Nothing can be this real.”

The Boston Herald describes Carolyn as “a dollop of Janis Joplin, a slice of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a big load of soulful individuality. That’s Wonderland, a seething-hot Texas singer-guitarist. And she can write, too.” Now, with Tempting Fate and a major tour in the works, Carolyn Wonderland is excited to get back out on the road and reconnect with her fans and friends. “We will play dang near anywhere that’ll have us,” she says. Of her chosen profession, the effervescent Wonderland told NPR Music’s Mountain Stage, “I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart, but it sure is a good time.”

Join us for a special “Home for the Holidays” show featuring 3 renowned Texan musicians with a fun night of holiday themed music.

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. 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.

“Fifty years have passed in a flash,” says Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist, songwriter and vocalist Marcia Ball of her long and storied career. Ball, the official 2018 Texas State Musician, has won worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. With each new release, her reputation as a profoundly soulful singer, a boundlessly talented pianist and a courageous, inventive songwriter continues to grow. Her love of the road has led to years of soul-satisfying performances at festivals, concert halls and clubs. The New York Times says, “Marcia Ball plays two-fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time.” The Houston Chronicle says simply, “She’s as perfect as an artist can be.”

Some people enter a room and blend right in. Not Shelley King. She sweeps in, carrying herself with the strength and assurance of a woman who knows how to step up and get it done, whether “it” is leading her band, running her own record label or co-producing her new album, Building A Fire. If there’s a little swagger to her strut, she’s earned it. Since quitting a sales job to pursue music full time in 1998, the singer-songwriter has served as the first female Texas state musician, performed with Levon Helm, toured the United States, Europe and Japan and cut two albums with members of the Subdudes.

Carolyn Wonderland

The depths of the Texas blues tradition with the wit of a poet. She hits the stage with an 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 excellent recordings.

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, Albert Collins, Lavelle White, Jerry Lightfoot, Joe “Guitar” Hughes, Little Joe Washington, “borrowed” a car to sneak out and jam ended up swapping songs with Townes Van Zandt at Houston’s Local’s on White Oak, got involved in the underground theater scene becoming the first “Photochick” in Jason Nodler’s “In the Under Thunderloo” and soaked up touring bands like the Paladins, Los Lobos, and the Mad Hatter of Texas music, Doug Sahm. Her music played in television series such as “Time of Your Life” and NBC’s “Homicide.” The Lone Star State was as credible a proving ground for blues in the 1980s and 90s 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, after a run-in with black ice and a semi that wound young Miss Wonderland in the hospital, she set her sights on Austin at the start of the millennium. Besides, Doug Sahm had told Carolyn while they were signing autographs together at the High Sierra Music Festival, she ought to move to Austin, as it was the land of free guitar lessons. She was there in months.

Living in Austin renewed Carolyn Wonderland’s focus on her multiple talents, underlining rich vocals with excellent guitar work, trumpet, and piano, as well as that remarkable ability to whistle on key. Despite spending two years homeless (or as she puts it, “van-full,”) Austin has been fertile ground for Carolyn. A series of each-better-than-the-next discs began with Alcohol & Salvation in 2001 (“songs about booze and God; records are a time capsule of what happened that year”) 2003’s “Bloodless Revolution,” The Bismeaux Releases: 2008’s “Miss Understood,” 2011’s “Peace Meal” (recorded at Bismeaux and Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock,) 2015’s “Live Texas Trio”; and here we are with 2017’s “Moon Goes Missing.”

Carolyn also got to stretch out with other bands and notably appears in Jerry Lightfoot’s Band of Wonder’s 2002 release, “Texistentialism” featuring Jerry Lightfoot, Vince Welnick (Grateful Dead, The Tubes, Todd Rundgren,) Carolyn, Barry “Frosty” Smith (Lee Michaels, Sly & the Family Stone, Rare Earth, Soulhat) and Larry Fulcher (Taj Mahal, Phantom Blues Band). She has released many songs for charity, 2016’s “Room at the Inn” (iTunes) benefits Doctors Without Borders, 2013’s “Money in the Game” (featuring Marcia Ball and Shelley King) benefits Planned Parenthood, “the Farmer Song” from “Miss Understood” benefits Farm AID, “Annie’s Scarlet Letter” from “Bloodless Revolution” benefits NORML, 1997 Justice Records released Carolyn’s version of Little Screamin’ Kenny’s holiday lament, “Blue Lights” (featuring Ian McLagan) benefitting MD Anderson Children’s Art Project.

Carolyn’s first appearance on vinyl? She’s with James Williamson (Stooges) on the April 2014 Record Store Day single, “Open Up & Bleed” AND on the full LP inspired by that fun session, “Re-Licked” featuring Raw Power Era songs with cool and risky guests.

Her circle of musician friends and admirers broadened to include not only Ray [Benson, who produced Miss Understood] but also the late Eddy Shaver, Shelley King, and yes, Bob Dylan, who likened her composition “Bloodless Revolution” to “a mystery movie theme.” She appeared on the same taping with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings when she made her debut on PBS’ “Austin City Limits” (Season 35.) and had the thrill of her life when Bonnie Raitt joined her onstage for “The Road to Austin” concert film featuring Stephen Bruton and all his friends, got to play with James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, and so many others at Antone’s, she and Erin Jaimes put together a benefit for Uncle John Turner and Johnny Winter insisted on bringing his band by to play, Carolyn’s wedding to A. Whitney Brown was officiated by Mike Nesmith (Monkees,) who serendipitously introduced them on set at VideoRanch in 2010. (there is a video of the two of them on stage together that day!) She began co-writing with locals Sarah Brown, Shelley King, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Cindy Cashdollar, and Guy Forsyth; sat in with Los Lobos, Levon Helm, Vintage Trouble, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard; and toured relentlessly for the past two decades, sometimes with luminaries like Dave Alvin, Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter, so far spreading her music in US, Europe, South America and Japan. She also claims membership in the all-girl Sis Deville, the gospel-infused Imperial Crown Golden Harmonizers, the Texas Guitar Women, and the Woodstock Lonestars.

Carolyn recently joined John Mayall’s Band as his guitarist and is balancing life on the road with writing time at home and on the way. She’s been touring for over 25 years and ain’t done yet. Come and see it at a show! (seriously, she’s perpetually on tour.)

Robert Finley

Robert Finley’s singing is as primal as an alligator and sweeter than late-summer honey. And on the new Sharecropper’s Son, he uses his marvelously expressive voice—which can glide from a gut-deep growl to a soothing purr to a transcendent falsetto all in a single phrase—to tell the story of his life in song. The album’s 10 numbers, produced by Dan Auerbach for his Easy Eye Sound label and available on July 10th, are blues, soul, gospel, and rock-infused chapters from that life, weaving Finley’s own stories of picking cotton, country childhood, hardship on city streets, jail time, the pain and joy of love, the search for a better life and the dream of salvation into a spellbinding musical tale.

“I try to open up my heart and keep it real every time I sing,” explains Finley, who has lived nearly all his days in and around the farmlands and swamps between his birthplace, Bernice, and his current home, Winnsboro, in North-Central Louisiana. “We made this album after we all went on tour together, and we were ready. I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way.”

You can hear that in how Finley and the band nearly breath together in songs like the gospel “Souled Out On You,” where the singer’s heart-piercing falsetto rings sharp and clear as an angel’s horn—underpinned by Auerbach’s fuzz-sweetened brown-butter guitar tone—and “Sharecropper’s Son,” where the musicians mine a deep, funky groove as Finley sings about his raising “out in the red hot sun, where the work is never done.”

Cut-by-cut, this follow-up to Finley’s 2017’s Easy Eye Sound release Going Platinum! bristles with the visceral energy that can only be captured by creatively charged musicians playing live and spontaneously in the studio. In addition to Auerbach, who dips into a deep well of styles and sounds throughout, the band includes Mississippi hill country’s Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton, veterans of Junior Kimbrough’s and R.L. Burnside’s bands, on guitar and bass, respectively. They’re joined by  other notables: keyboardist and songwriter Bobby Wood, who’s played a historic role in Memphis and Nashville music, drum legend Gene Chrisman and the equally legendary Louisiana guitarist Billy Sanford. And the line-up’s completed by a full horn section, bassist Dave Roe, who has decades of experience with Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, and John Mellencamp, and drummer Sam Bacco, who has a long resume in rock, country, pop, and bluegrass.

Of course, the fire behind the conflagrant performances on Sharecropper’s Son is Finley, who was so deeply in the zone throughout that his lyrics and vocal approach for two of the album’s songs, the autobiographical “Country Child” and his manifesto of love and struggle, “Country Boy,” were improvised as he and the band rolled tape.

Such untrodden terrain is just another of the many settings where Finley feels comfortable. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” he explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind straight from my soul. It needs to be something I lived, and then I can just tell people about it. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

Auerbach’s relationship with Finley began as a listener. He was knocked out by Finley’s talent at first hearing of Age Don’t Mean a Thing, the singer’s 2016 debut on Fat Possum Records. “His voice was just out of control, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get him into the studio,’ ” Auerbach recounts. So the next year he invited Finley to Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville to record a soundtrack for Murder Ballads, a graphic novel. And while Auerbach knew Finley’s voice was big, he had no idea that his personality was just as large.

“He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp,” Auerbach attests. “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster.” The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. “Basically, he was dressed for national television,” Auerbach adds.

The result of those sessions, which lasted only two afternoons, was Finley’s Easy Eye Sound debut, Going Platinum! That album was a jolting announcement of the arrival of a soon-to-be-legendary voice and talent, and lifted Finley’s career into the spotlight. Now, Sharecropper’s Son ups the ante with a band that—through sharing the stage and studio with the elder performer—has crafted an arresting and dynamic ensemble sound tailored for his eclectic musical interests. But perhaps more important, this is the first album Finley’s recorded that fully showcases his autobiographical songwriting—allowing him to open his heart and mind to the world. Except for the closing spiritual “All My Hope,” all the songs were written by Finley, with co-writing by Auerbach, Wood, and well-respected country songwriter Pat McLaughlin on various tracks.

“Robert is a truly great man, and writing with him—getting that kind of window to his life—was an amazing experience,” says Auerbach. “He’s legally blind and grew up working hard alongside his family on a farm and singing in the church. He taught himself how to play guitar. He was a helicopter repairman in Germany, in the Army, where he played and toured Europe with an Army band. He sang gospel and blues on the streets. He’s a highly skilled carpenter. He’s raised a family and his kids love him. And while he was doing all of that, he developed one of the most unique, powerful and poetic styles I’ve ever heard. And all of that comes through on Sharecropper’s Son.”

Although Finley has long been a potent artist, for most of the past 20 years, after his blindness led him to semi-retirement, he’s mostly been playing little joints within an hour’s drive of Winnsboro—like Riverside Coney Island, which specializes in boiled crawfish, and Enoch’s Irish Pub & Café, both in Monroe, Louisiana. But his ascent has been swift since he was discovered in 2015 busking on the streets of Helena, Arkansas. In addition to touring more than 10 countries in the wake of his two earlier albums, Finley was also a contestant on the 2019 season of the TV competition America’s Got Talent reaching the semi-finals and quickly became a fan favorite during his run. His daughter Christy Johnson, who appeared with Finley on the show, also provides some backing vocals for Sharecropper’s Son.

Reflecting on his new album, Finley says, “I want people to understand that I can’t be kept in a box. I like to do all kinds of music—everything that means anything to me, from gospel to blues to soul to country to rock ‘n’ roll. And I like to stand out and be different, and do things that reach young and older people. What I want everybody to know from my own experience is that you’re never too young to dream, and that you’re never too old for your dream to come true.”

“The more guitar you play, the more you sing, the better you get,” says award-winning Texas guitar slinger, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Carolyn Wonderland. Since performing her first professional gig at age 15, she’s never stopped singing and making music. Her music includes a bold mix of timeless original songs and reinventions of some of her favorites, ranging from blistering electric blues to deep, heartfelt ballads to cosmic country to soulful Tex-Mex. Every song is fueled by Wonderland’s forceful yet melodic Texas flavored guitar work and her full-throated, heart-on-her-sleeve vocals. She’s recorded ten previous albums under her own name, including four produced by famed musician Ray Benson, founder of multiple Grammy-winning band Asleep At The Wheel. Wonderland, who spent the last three years as lead guitarist in John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, now joins the Alligator Records family as the first female guitar hero in the label’s storied 50-year history. Her spine-chilling, soul-deep singing matches her guitar prowess note for note. And she has a knack for writing songs that sound like instant classics. Her Alligator Records debut, the Dave Alvin-produced Tempting Fate, is the next chapter in Wonderland’s remarkable story, one that is already overflowing with countless and colorful once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

On Tempting Fate, Wonderland delivers ten riveting songs, including five fiery originals (and one co-write with her Mayall bandmate Greg Rzab). On every song—from the searing, guitar-heavy Broken Hearted Blues to the tender and poignant Crack In The Wall to the very Texan love song for her boot collection, Texas Girl And Her Boots, to the politically-charged Fragile Peace And Certain War to the take-no-prisoners version of the Grateful Dead’s Loser—Wonderland throws herself completely into the music. Her shining duet with Jimmie Dale Gilmore on Bob Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry redefines the song. Her explosive guitar work and commanding vocals on John Mayall’s The Laws Must Change makes his song hers.

In addition to her longtime road band—bassist Bobby Perkins and drummer Kevin Lance—who anchor every song, guests on Tempting Fate include Gilmore, Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel guitar, Marcia Ball on piano, Shelley King on background vocals, Jan Flemming on accordion and Red Young on organ and piano, with producer Dave Alvin playing guitar on three songs. “I can’t wait to share the new album,” says Wonderland. “I got to record a dream list of songs and play with a dream list of people. And Dave really got me to kick the doors in. And it’s hip to be on Alligator. If you could see my record collection, it’s full of Alligator albums.”

Alvin told writer Michael Corcoran, “I wanted to work with Carolyn because her guitar playing isn’t imitating anyone. She is especially not imitating the imitators, like so many modern blues or blues/rock guitarists do. She developed her own effective way of playing the blues that incorporate bits of folk, country and even psychedelic riffs, plus she always surprises me with her guitar lines and melodic twists and turns. As for Carolyn’s vocals, they are soulful and powerful to the point of being often spine-tingling. Her ability to move from intimate, whispery gentleness to earth shaking, Saturday night bar room loudness, always impresses me, both for the obvious gifts of her vocal range but also how well she uses it to advance the drama or the story of the song. I also love that Carolyn has a wonderful, mischievous sense of humor that makes her performances honest and charming and keep them far away from getting too bogged down in too much serious ‘artiste’ posturing.”

Carolyn Wonderland, born Carolyn Bradford in Houston, Texas in 1972, grew up in a house full of music and instruments. She first starting making music at age six, and by eight had decided, in her own mind, that she was a musician. After she scratched up her mother’s vintage Martin guitar by imitating Pete Townsend’s famous windmill move, she was forbidden from using a pick. Because of that, she developed her aggressive, distinctive finger-picking guitar attack. Her early influences include her mom, Houston guitar legends Albert Collins, Jerry Lightfoot, Joe “Guitar” Hughes, and Little Screamin’ Kenny, as well as blues and soul vocalist Lavelle White. Singing came naturally, as did learning to play just about every instrument she got her hands on. She plays trumpet, accordion, lap steel, piano, and mandolin. She’s a whistler, too. Her renowned whistling can be heard to great effect on her song, On My Feet Again.

By age 15, she was performing at Houston’s famed Fitzgerald’s club, playing solo or with friends. As a 16-year-old, she found herself swapping songs with Townes Van Zandt. She formed her first band when she CAROLYN WONDERLAND TEMPTING FATE was 17, and began proving herself on the tough, competitive Houston club scene. A year later, she joined forces with famed Houston musician Little Screamin’ Kenny and formed The Imperial Monkeys. Before long, Carolyn Wonderland And The Imperial Monkeys were swinging high on the vine, touring as far as Utah, New York and South Dakota, and winning every music award Houston had to offer. A booking at Austin’s famous Antone’s club left a strong mark on Wonderland, who moved to Austin in 1999 at the urging of Doug Sahm (who told her, “It’s the land of free guitar lessons”). For two years she traveled with her band in her van, and stayed with friends in Austin and on the road, trading chores for meals and lodging. “I wasn’t home-less,” she says. “I was van-full.”

Wonderland released Alcohol & Salvation in 2001 on a tiny local label. The self-released Bloodless Revolution followed in 2003, and brought her new fans, along with local press and radio attention. Her growing reputation as a hotter-than-fire live performer kept her touring calendar full. Then one day in 2003, legendary musician Ray Benson was having lunch with his friend Bob Dylan, who had heard Wonderland’s music. Dylan asked Benson, “Hey, have you heard Carolyn Wonderland? She’s something else.” Dylan wanted to meet Wonderland, so Benson got her number from a mutual friend and called her in Houston, telling Wonderland to get to Austin immediately to meet Dylan. She drove the 165 miles in record time, and they had great fun jamming that night. They’ve crossed paths since, sometimes jamming, sometimes just talking about music (“He’s a real musicologist,” she says of Bob). Dylan once asked Wonderland to write bawdy answer lyrics to his already-ribald Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat, and all but fell over laughing when she played the newly rewritten song for him. “Sometimes he’ll just call,” Wonderland says. “I haven’t changed my number.”

Wonderland’s first Ray Benson-produced album, Miss Understood, came out on Benson’s Bismeaux label in 2008. Upon its release, the mayor of Austin declared “Carolyn Wonderland Day” throughout the city. Benson produced her next three albums, Peace Meal in 2011, Live Texas Trio in 2015 (both on Bismeaux) and Moon Goes Missing (on Home Records) in 2017. According to Benson, “Carolyn’s got that unbelievable, incredible voice, one of the great voices of our times. She’s got the range, the emotion. She’s also an incredible guitar player and a great person. The combination is disarming and totally real. That’s magic.”

The popular and critical response to Wonderland and her music has been nothing short of amazing. She’s appeared on Austin City Limits, NPR’s Weekend Edition and NPR Music’s Mountain Stage. Features and reviews have run in publications from The Los Angeles Times to The Boston Herald. Her music has been heard on FOX-TV’s Time Of Your Life and on NBC’s Homicide. She appears, playing on stage alongside Bonnie Raitt, in the film The Road To Austin. She’s won multiple Austin Music Awards and was inducted into the Austin Music Hall Of Fame in 2020. She’s jammed with musicians including Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, James Cotton, Los Lobos, Vintage Trouble, Robert Earl Keen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Levon Helm. Helm invited her to begin all of her tours with a performance at his famous Ramble in Woodstock, New York. “He always refreshed and recharged us before we hit the road,” Wonderland says.

In 2018, legendary musician and bandleader John Mayall chose Wonderland to be lead guitarist in his band, The Blues Breakers. She became the first woman to ever hold that position. (The all-star list of Mayall’s legendary guitarists includes Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Coco Montoya and Walter Trout.) She toured the world with Mayall, once playing 50 shows in 60 days in 19 countries. She’s also played with her own band all over the U.S. and in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Canary Islands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Japan.

In addition to her performing and recording with her own band, Wonderland has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Jerry Lightfoot’s Band of Wonder (featuring the Grateful Dead’s Vince Welnick), The Loose Affiliation Of Saints And Sinners (with Papa Mali, Guy Forsyth and others), and James Williamson (The Stooges). She can also occasionally be found singing and playing in Sis Deville, the Imperial Crown Golden Harmonizers, the Austin Volunteer Orchestra, the Texas Guitar Women, and the Woodstock Lonestars.

Wonderland also works tirelessly for a wide variety of charitable and social causes. She has often donated proceeds from her music to benefit organizations including Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, Farm Aid, NORML and the M.D. Anderson Children’s Art Project. She is a founding member, along with Marcia Ball, of H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers), which provides emergency financial assistance to older Austin-based musicians in need.

Wonderland married her husband, humorist A. Whitney Brown, in a ceremony on Austin’s Doug Sahm Hill, performed by Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, and documented in The New York Times’ “Vow” section. Nesmith, who had previously produced a song for Wonderland on her Peace Meal album, says, “When she goes into that mode where she decides to grab the heart of the song and hold it up for everybody to see, it’s just so searing. Nothing can be this raw. Nothing can be this real.”

The Boston Herald describes Carolyn as “a dollop of Janis Joplin, a slice of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a big load of soulful individuality. That’s Wonderland, a seething-hot Texas singer-guitarist. And she can write, too.” Now, with Tempting Fate and a major tour in the works, Carolyn Wonderland is excited to get back out on the road and reconnect with her fans and friends. “We will play dang near anywhere that’ll have us,” she says. Of her chosen profession, the effervescent Wonderland told NPR Music’s Mountain Stage, “I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart, but it sure is a good time.”

WALTER TROUT and Provogue Records / Mascot Label Group released Survivor’s Blues globally on January 25.  Trout is no ordinary artist and this is no ordinary covers album. From the day he conceived the project to the moment he counted off the first song in the studio, he had a bolder plan for this release.  Trout shares, “I’m riding in my car sometimes, and I’ve got a blues station on – and here’s another band doing Got My Mojo Workin’. And there’s a little voice in me that says, ‘Does The World need another version of that song?’ So I came up with an idea. I didn’t want to do ‘Stormy Monday’ or ‘Messin’ With The Kid.’ I didn’t want to do the Blues greatest hits. I wanted to do old, obscure songs that have hardly been covered. And that’s how Survivor Blues started…”

Over the course of the last several decades, Walter Trout has been a prolific artist.  He’s regularly released offerings from the studio, so this moment of offering a covers album is somewhat of a curveball.  His 2017 all-star release, We’re All In This Together, shows no sign of burning out and continues to receive accolades and sales on a global basis, alongside four awards for Blues Rock Album Of The Year.  He reflects, ”It’s really overwhelming. How do I follow that up? I’ve always respected guys who went out on a limb, like Neil Young or Bob Dylan. You never know what they’re gonna come out with.”

Likewise, long-standing fans have given up trying to second-guess Trout’s next move. The track listing of Survivor Blues is a window into the 67-year-old’s fast-moving backstory, chronicling a five-decade career whose one constant is his deep love of the Blues. Opener “Me, My Guitar And The Blues” tips a hat to cult hero Jimmy Dawkins, whose records Trout devoured while cutting his teeth as a ’60s axe-slinger in New Jersey. “Nature’s Disappearing” nods to his celebrated ’80s tenure in John Mayall’s near-mythical Blues-breakers. In-between, you’ll find cherished favorites from a lifetime’s listening, with songs that caught Trout’s ear at key junctures in his journey, from backing up John Lee Hooker in the ’70s, to bringing the groove to Canned Heat in the ’80s or breaking through as a solo artist in the ’90s.

The roll-call of artists might be eclectic, but there’s a cohesion to Survivor Blues. From the outset, Trout made it his mission to harness the power and spirit of the originals, while stamping his inimitable musical personality onto each new take. He offers, “My idea was to do these songs like me, to arrange them for my band and style – not to just copy the originals note-for-note.”

Last September, as recording began at the Los Angeles studio of iconic Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, Trout and long-standing producer Eric Corne shared their vision with the only band who could measure up. The thunder and finesse of drummer Michael Leasure. The muscular groove of bassist Johnny Griparic. The spell-casting fingers of keyboards session god and regular Trout conspirator, Skip Edwards. “I’d play them the original,” remembers Trout, “and then I’d say, ‘Here’s how the song goes, what have you got?’ I’d give these guys a lot of freedom. The record was mostly done live, with us set up in a circle, just to get the feel of us going there together. And you can feel it, y’know?”

Walter Trout has a connection to each of these songs selected. He reflects on Chicago Bluesman Jimmy Dawkins never receiving the recognition deserved in covering “Survivor Blues.” He reveals, “The last line – ‘Since you left me, All I have left is Me, My Guitar and the Blues’ – is one of the greatest lyrics I’ve heard in my life and I start crying just saying it. And my wife thinks it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”  Sunnyland Slim’s “Be Careful How You Vote” stresses the importance of choosing carefully at the ballot box, without taking sides. Certainly relevant for all members of society. Universal themes are also explored on Otis Rush’s defiant “It Takes Time” and the funk-flavored groove of Luther Johnson’s “Woman Don’t Lie.”  With J.B. Lenoir’s
“Talk To Your Daughter,” he recalls, “I found this song that Lenoir does all by himself with the guitar, very slowly, almost without even a rhythm. I played the original to the band and said: ‘Now we’re gonna turn it into Jimi Hendrix’. I wanted to use it as a vehicle for the band and for my guitar-playing and vocals. I wanted to belt it out.”

There’s rarely been a Trout record without a tip of the hat to Mayall, and here the Brit-blues godfather is represented by “Nature’s Disappearing.” He reveals, “I was nervous about doing it because it’s by my mentor and surrogate father. John told me he’d read an article about ecology and pollution – he put the magazine down at the end and wrote that song in five minutes. It’s even more relevant today, with all the environmental regulations being thrown out and national parks being sold off to oil companies.

You don’t hear a track like Goin’ Down To The River every day either, with Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ancient gem decorated with slide guitar from a very special guest. “There was something about the lyric,” muses Trout. “Y’know, ‘I’m going down to the river, I’m gonna let the waves and the water wash my trouble down’. It tore me up. But the original is very different. I decided to take the verses that spoke to me, and then rearranged the song almost Muddy Waters-esque with that slide lick. Robby Krieger was coming in every day, listening and hanging out, so I said, ‘I’d love it if you played on this song’. So when I say ‘Play it, Robby’ – that’s Robby Krieger from The Doors. We just did that in the studio – boom, there you go.”

All they needed was a title. And as Trout surveyed his bloodied-but-unbowed cohorts – and reflected on a collection of blues songs whose raw power remained undimmed – he knew the suggestion of his wife and manager, Marie, couldn’t be topped. “We started thinking about these enduring songs and the guys playing on the album,” he reflects. “Mike is in recovery. Johnny almost didn’t make it. Skip has had a triple bypass. And I almost didn’t make it after my liver disease in 2014. So Marie said to me, ‘You’re a group of survivors. You’ve all been through hell and you’ve come back. These songs are survivors. This album needs to be called Survivor Blues’. I just looked at her and said: ‘You got it’.”

Of course, when it comes to Walter Trout, survival is an understatement. Survey the glittering late-bloom career of this ageless bluesman and all evidence suggests an artist on a steep upward trajectory. Trout nods: “My career is going great. My kids are doing great. My wife and I are madly in love. I’m the most healthy I’ve ever been. So I haven’t just survived. Right now, I’m in the best time of my life…”

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.

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, Albert Collins, Lavelle White, Jerry Lightfoot, Joe “Guitar” Hughes, Little Joe Washington, “borrowed” a car to sneak out and jam, ended up swapping songs with Townes Van Zandt at Houston’s Local’s on White Oak, got involved in the underground theater scene becoming the first “Photochick” in Jason Nodler’s “In the Under Thunderloo” and soaked up touring bands like the Paladins, Los Lobos, and the Mad Hatter of Texas music, Doug Sahm. Her music played in television series such as “Time of Your Life” and NBC’s “Homicide.” The Lone Star State was as credible a proving ground for blues in the 1980s and 90s 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 Impferial 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, after a run in with black ice and a semi that wound young Miss Wonderland in the hospital, she set her sights on Austin at the start of the millennium. Besides, Doug Sahm had told Carolyn while they were signing autographs together at the High Sierra Music Festival she ought to move to Austin, as it was the land of free guitar lessons. She was there in months.

Living in Austin renewed Carolyn Wonderland’s focus on her multiple talents, underlining luxurious vocals with fine guitar work, trumpet, and piano, as well as that remarkable ability to whistle on key. Despite spending two years homeless (or as she puts it, “van-full,”) Austin has been fertile ground for Carolyn. A series of each-better-than-the-next discs began with Alcohol & Salvation in 2001 (“songs about booze and God; records are a time capsule of what happened that year”) 2003’s “Bloodless Revolution”, The Bismeaux Releases: 2008’s “Miss Understood,” 2011’s “Peace Meal” (recorded at Bismeaux and at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock,) 2015’s “Live Texas Trio”; and here we are with 2017’s “Moon Goes Missing.”

Carolyn also got to stretch out with other bands and notably appears in Jerry Lightfoot’s Band of Wonder’s 2002 release, “Texistentialism” featuring Jerry Lightfoot, Vince Welnick (Greatful Dead, The Tubes, Todd Rundgren,) Carolyn, Barry “Frosty” Smith (Lee Michaels, Sly & the Family Stone, Rare Earth, Soulhat) and Larry Fulcher (Taj Mahal, Phantom Blues Band). She has released many songs for charity, 2016’s “Room at the Inn” (iTunes) benefits Doctors Without Borders, 2013’s “Money in the Game” (featuring Marcia Ball and Shelley King) benefits Planned Parenthood, “the Farmer Song” from “Miss Understood” benefits Farm AID, “Annie’s Scarlet Letter” from “Bloodless Revolution” benefits NORML, 1997 Justice Records released Carolyn’s version of Little Screamin’ Kenny’s holiday lament, “Blue Lights” (featuring Ian McLagan) benefitting MD Anderson Children’s Art Project.

 Carolyn’s first appearance on vinyl? She’s with James Williamson (Stooges) on the April 2014 Record Store Day single, “Open Up & Bleed” AND on the full LP inspired by that fun session, “Re-Licked” featuring Raw Power Era songs with cool and risky guests.

Her circle of musician friends and admirers broadened to include not only Ray [Benson, who produced Miss Understood] but also the late Eddy Shaver, Shelley King, and yes, Bob Dylan, who likened her composition “Bloodless Revolution” to “a mystery movie theme.” She appeared on the same taping with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings when she made her debut on PBS’ “Austin City Limits” (Season 35.) and had the thrill of her life when Bonnie Raitt joined her onstage for “The Road to Austin” concert film featuring Stephen Bruton and all his friends, got to play with James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, and so many others at Antone’s, she and Erin Jaimes put together a benefit for Uncle John Turner and Johnny Winter insisted on bringing his band by to play, Carolyn’s wedding to A. Whitney Brown was officiated by Mike Nesmith (Monkees,) who serendipitously introduced them on set at VideoRanch in 2010. (there is video of the two of them on stage together that day!) She began co-writing with locals Sarah Brown, Shelley King, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Cindy Cashdollar, and Guy Forsyth; sat in with Los Lobos, Levon Helm, Vintage Trouble, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard; and toured relentlessly for the past two decades, sometimes with luminaries like Dave Alvin, Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter, so far spreading her music in US, Europe, South America and Japan. She also claims membership in the all-girl Sis Deville, the gospel-infused Imperial Crown Golden Harmonizers, the Texas Guitar Women, and the Woodstock Lonestars.

Carolyn recently joined John Mayall’s Band as his guitarist and is balancing life on the road with writing time at home and on the road. She’s been touring for over 25 years and clearly ain’t done yet. Come see why at a show! (seriously, she’s perpetually on tour.)

Join us for a special “Home for the Holidays” show featuring 3 renowned Texan musicians with a fun night of holiday themed music.

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.
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.

“Fifty years have passed in a flash,” says Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist, songwriter and vocalist Marcia Ball of her long and storied career. Ball, the official 2018 Texas State Musician, has won worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. With each new release, her reputation as a profoundly soulful singer, a boundlessly talented pianist and a courageous, inventive songwriter continues to grow. Her love of the road has led to years of soul-satisfying performances at festivals, concert halls and clubs. The New York Times says, “Marcia Ball plays two-fisted New Orleans barrelhouse piano and sings in a husky, knowing voice about all the trouble men and women can get into on the way to a good time.” The Houston Chronicle says simply, “She’s as perfect as an artist can be.”

Some people enter a room and blend right in. Not Shelley King. She sweeps in, carrying herself with the strength and assurance of a woman who knows how to step up and get it done, whether “it” is leading her band, running her own record label or co-producing her new album, Building A Fire.
If there’s a little swagger to her strut, she’s earned it. Since quitting a sales job to pursue music full time in 1998, the singer-songwriter has served as the first female Texas state musician, performed with Levon Helm, toured the United States, Europe and Japan and cut two albums with members of the Subdudes.

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, Peace Meal, and Moon Goes Missing.

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.

Today, Carolyn is one of the most recognized names in her genre across Austin and the state of Texas. Her most recent accomplishment is joining forces with the legendary John Mayall as the first ever female Blues Breaker. She will be touring with John across the U.S. throughout the year so be on the lookout for this once in a lifetime line-up.

Shelley King is a musical ambassador of the Austin, Texas sound. For the past twenty years King has built a solid national career as a singer and songwriter who is both a successful solo artist and leader of a formidable band of Austin’s finest musicians. Her blend of original blues, rock, folk, country, soul and gospel led her to be the first woman appointed by the Texas Legislature to represent the state as it’s Official Texas State Artist – Musician; an honor similar to poet laureate. On stage she leads her band through tangents of electric Southern blues and acoustic folk, revved-up Cajun country and rock and roll with a charismatic ease that evidences the resilience of a lifelong performer. She has won Austin Music Awards for Song of the Year and Best Roots Rock Band and released seven albums of original music to rave reviews and radio chart success. Shelley tours relentlessly, performing over 180 dates a year at venues from coffee shops and house concerts to big theaters and major festivals across the world. Her songs have been recorded by numerous national and international artists and appeared in feature films.

 

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, Peace Meal, and Moon Goes Missing.

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.

Today, Carolyn is one of the most recognized names in her genre across Austin and the state of Texas. Her most recent accomplishment is joining forces with the legendary John Mayall as the first ever female Blues Breaker. She will be touring with John across the U.S. throughout the year so be on the lookout for this once in a lifetime line-up.

Shelley King is a musical ambassador of the Austin, Texas sound. For the past twenty years King has built a solid national career as a singer and songwriter who is both a successful solo artist and leader of a formidable band of Austin’s finest musicians. Her blend of original blues, rock, folk, country, soul and gospel led her to be the first woman appointed by the Texas Legislature to represent the state as it’s Official Texas State Artist – Musician; an honor similar to poet laureate. On stage she leads her band through tangents of electric Southern blues and acoustic folk, revved-up Cajun country and rock and roll with a charismatic ease that evidences the resilience of a lifelong performer. She has won Austin Music Awards for Song of the Year and Best Roots Rock Band and released seven albums of original music to rave reviews and radio chart success. Shelley tours relentlessly, performing over 180 dates a year at venues from coffee shops and house concerts to big theaters and major festivals across the world. Her songs have been recorded by numerous national and international artists and appeared in feature films.

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.

Carolyn grew 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’s 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 more recently, Miss Understood and Peace Meal.

Along with the guitar and the multitude of other instruments she learned to play – trumpet, accordion, piano, mandolin, lap steel – Wonderland even thows in a whistling solo on occasion.

Her breakthrough album release was 2008’s Miss Understood (Bismeaux). From appearances on PBS’s Austin City Limits to top slots at major festivals around the world, Wonderland’s album quickly reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Blues chart and her live shows left a trail of screaming fans in its wake.

The follow up, Peace Meal (2011), was produced by a stellar cast including long-time supporter and inspiration, Ray Benson, and two-time Grammy winner Larry Campbell (the force behind The Band drummer Levon Helm and his recent comeback) and founding Monkee, Michael Nesmith.

2014 highlights included key festival appearances in North America and Europe, as well as guest sit-in appearances with cohorts Vintage Trouble, and vocal performance on two tracks of James Williamson’s (Stooges) release of newly recorded versions of songs he and Iggy wrote in 1973 and 1974 called“Re-Licked” along with Jello Biafra, Mark Lanegan, Alison Mosshart, and many more. 2015 highlights include her first-ever New Orleans JazzFest appearance, appearance on Carson Daly Show, and a live album called “Live Texas Trio.”

Cole El-Saleh plays keyboards and key bass. His keyboard work can be heard on Carolyn Wonderland’s most recent three albums, as well as about a hundred other projects, mostly recorded and produced in Austin, Texas between 1996 and the present.

Rob Hooper was born in Dallas, TX and started playing drums when he was 11 years old. Rob started playing professionally at age 18. He has played drums for Jimmie Dale Gilmore, the Resentments, Seth Walker, Guy Forsyth, Monte Montgomery, and many more.

Ever since the 20th century turned into the 21st, singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón has earned renown as one of music’s most distinctive and searching voices – “a one-man band… who is spiritually connected,” according to The New York Times, and “an eclectic adventurist,” in the words of People magazine. The New Mexico native, blind since birth, has released eight albums since 1999, including the acclaimed studio productions Don’t Hesitate (Mack Avenue/Artistry, 2014), Synthesis (Decca/Universal, 2009), A World Within a World (Manhattan/EMI, 2007) and State of Mind (Manhattan/EMI, 2005). Midón’s questing musicality makes him, as the Huffington Post put it, “a free man beyond category.” Attesting to his enduring ambitions is Midón’s ninth studio album, Bad Ass and Blind, set for release via Mack Avenue/Artistry Music on March 24, 2017.

Search for “Raul Midón” on YouTube and you’ll find a clip of him appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2006. Performing “State of Mind,” the title track from his major-label debut, Midón unveils what would become his signature combination of silky tenor voice and percussive guitar style. His guitar playing is a syncopated, flamenco- and jazz-infused wonder in which bass, harmony and melodic lines fly from the fretboard in a way that seems to belie the fact that all the music is being produced by just two hands. If that weren’t enough, Midón busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo entirely with his lips, earning himself a spontaneous burst of mid-song applause from the audience in the process. It’s the sort of performance that led the Huffington Post to describe how “he plays with such freedom and joy that his hands smile.” Billboard called him, simply and aptly, “a virtuoso.” Subsequently, Midón’s live 2016 rendition of John Coltrane’s jazz classic “Giant Steps” – which sees him fly through all 12 keys – has earned more than 1.2 million views via Facebook.

Midón’s upcoming Bad Ass and Blind album ¬– the title a description of its maker that soul icon Bill Withers endorsed – finds the artist expanding his range compositionally, tapping into the linear modal harmony explored by such jazz composers as Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. Album highlight “Wings of Mind” utilizes this technique with a sophistication that brings to mind jazz-savvy pop acts like Steely Dan. “As a listener, you don’t need to know anything about the Phrygian or Dorian modes to get this music – it just sounds different, intriguing, exotic,” Midón explains.

In early 2016, the guitarist was invited to cross the U.S. as a featured artist in the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour company that also included the likes of jazz stars Nicholas Payton, Ravi Coltrane and Gerald Clayton. The tour culminated in a weeklong run at New York City’s Birdland. It was an acclaimed live collaboration, with JazzTimes remarking on how Midón became “the undeniable focus” whenever he came onstage and praising his “acrobatic… note-perfect” performances, as well as the “new, swinging ‘Wings of Mind’.” Inspired by his encounters with top jazz improvisers, Midón tapped some of the Monterey players to form a band for several tracks on Bad Ass and Blind, including “All That I Am,” “If Only” and “Wings of Mind,” each complete with scintillating solos. “It was the realization of a dream to have my music performed by players of this caliber – they really took the tunes to a higher plane, adding their own art to the songs,” says Midón, who produced the album himself. “Guys like these are never just hired guns – listen to the killing trumpet solo Nicholas played on ‘Wings of Mind’.”

There are songs on Bad Ass and Blind sure to please fans of Midón’s earlier albums, beginning with the title track, which in fact was written and recorded after the album was almost completed. The tour de force piece finds Midón celebrating blindness with a ripping guitar solo, a fierce spoken word rhyme, slamming bass by Richard Hammond (Hamilton) and drumming by Lionel Cordew (Spyro Gyra). Celebrating blindness continues with the naturally funky “Gotta Gotta Give” featuring blind French musician Jean-Philippe Rykiel. The album also includes the philosophic, toe tapping “Pedal to the Metal,” as well as the ballads “You & I” and “Jack (Robert Lorick),” the latter dedicated to the titular voice actor who moved Midón with his portrayal of Jack in the ZBS audio adventures “Jack Flanders.” Another notable track on Bad Ass and Blind is Midón’s multi-layered cover of the Steve Miller Band’s FM staple “Fly Like an Eagle.” As a boy, he bought the original LP featuring the song at a Woolworth’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The lyrics have some social consciousness, and there’s a groove and simplicity about the song that I think are beautiful. I changed the key, re-harmonized it a bit, changed the tempo – customized the song for the way I feel it now.”

Reflecting on the exploratory grasp of past and present represented by Bad Ass and Blind, Midón says: “Like with all my records, this album is for those who are interested in going beyond notions of genre – it’s for listeners with open ears, open minds, open hearts.”