Carolyn Wonderland

Miss Understood

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On her seventh album, Texas blues singer/guitarist Carolyn Wonderland teams with Ray Benson, leader of Asleep at the Wheel, who serves as her producer, co-writer on two songs, backup guitarist, and the head of her record label, Bismeaux Productions. Benson seems to have just let Wonderland be herself, and that results in a varied collection that begins by emphasizing her blues-rock bona fides on the lap steel workout "Misunderstood" and ends with the ballad "Feed Me to the Lions," on which she is accompanied by the Tosca String Quartet. In between, there is plenty of room for her tasty, sometimes ferocious guitar playing on both originals and such covers as a version of the Johnny Winter signature song "Still Alive and Well." She has a powerful, rhythmic voice, her phrasing, if not her timbre, sometimes recalling Janis Joplin's, perhaps because they come from the same part of the world. While the rockers clearly provide a comfort zone for her, Wonderland seems equally at home on calmer material, notably the slow blues "Bad Girl Blues" and "I Don't Want to Fall for You," which sounds like a lost song from the days of Tin Pan Alley. Such versatility serves her well and only whets the appetite for her next guitar solo.

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