Texas-based blueswoman Carolyn Wonderland combines soulful vocals, tremendous guitar-playing, diverse songwriting and a thoroughly engaging stage presence into a deliciously potent whole. Wonderland and her band will be performing at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St.
Wonderland throws her whole self into her music. On guitar and lap steel, she can play with authoritative force, restrained delicacy, rock-influence searing fire and Delta-influenced slide-guitar greasiness.
As a vocalist, Wonderland usually sings with a great big voice that belies her diminutive frame — her power as a singer has drawn repeated comparisons to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt — but she also can croon with a lullaby softness or toss in a heart-grabbing New Orleans-style catch.
On the songwriting front, Wonderland blends in a touch of the unexpected — for example, a rockin’ blues song that, when listened to more closely, is a reflection on visiting John Lennon’s memorial Strawberry Fields; hardly a common topic in the blues — creating music that is innovative that but not jarringly so.
Wonderland has a penchant for incorporating elements of a variety of musical styles including zydeco, swing, country, surf, gospel, soul and occasionally a bit of cumbia into the blues mix. And even though she’s achieved “guitar goddess” status, Wonderland isn’t afraid to set her trusty ax down in order to add mandolin, barrelhouse piano, or trumpet into the mix if the song or the moment calls for it.
Wonderland’s humor (glimpses of which are seen in the word play of titles her two most recent albums, “Miss Understood” and “Peace Meal”) flashes out in some lyrics and in between songs, acting as an unexpected and effective counterbalance to the intensity of her playing. Something of a cheerful renegade, Wonderland and her music seem to have roots reaching back to the San Francisco sound of the late 1960s in addition to the blues that is at the core of her sound.
Tickets are $20 and are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, and at the door if not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and carolynwonderland.com.