On disc, she comes across like the daughter of Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan with half of Stevie Wonder’s surname.
In concert Thursday at the Dakota Jazz Club, Carolyn Wonderland was a little rawer vocally, terrifically witty (Texas style) between songs and smokin’ on guitar (both a Telecaster and a lap slide). This water-guzzling wild child can play it fast and furious. That was some mighty impressive finger-picking with her rapid right hand.
In short, it’s easy to see why this Texas bar star has picked up several trophies in Austin (where she lives) and Houston (where she used to live and grew up) for best female vocalist and best blues band.
Backed by drummer Rob Hooper and keyboardist/bassist Cole El-Saleh, Wonderland, 41, played two 45-minute sets (plus an encore). She did memorable covers of Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Mavis Staples, Billy Joe Shaver, the Band, Los Lobos and Alice Cooper.
A clever touch at the end of Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned” typified her sense of humor; she offered a vocal coda “Picture yourself in a reefer band” sung to the opening line of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Wonderland also did some noteworthy originals from her top-notch 2011 CD, “Peace Meal,” her ninth recording. “Only God Knows When” was a swampy, Little Feat-like New Orleans piano boogie seasoned by Wonderland’s lap guitar. And on the down and dirty blues-rocker “No Exception,” she tore it up on the Telecaster.
This wasn’t Wonderland’s first visit to the Dakota. And it certainly won’t be her last. The hard-touring singer/guitarist/trumpeter promised that a live album would be released later this year.