“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
Award-winning Texas guitar slinger, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Carolyn Wonderland has been performing professionally since the age of 15. Her music is 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 eleven albums, including her October 2021 debut on Alligator Records, Tempting Fate, produced by the famed Dave Alvin. Wonderland, who spent the last three years as a member of blues legend John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, has joined 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 songs are inspired by her story, overflowing with countless and colorful once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Wonderland has been a road warrior for over 20 years. She’s played 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 2018, venerated musician and bandleader John Mayall chose Wonderland to be lead guitarist in his band, The Blues Breakers. She became the first woman ever 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 recently left the band to tour in celebration of her new Alligator album.
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, Wonderland throws herself completely into the music, with vocals that range from raw and powerful to subtle and gentle. Her guitar work, on both six-string and lap steel, is often explosive and always melodic. In addition to her longtime road band—bassist Bobby Perkins and drummer Kevin Lance—who anchor every song, Tempting Fate includes guest appearances by famed Texas musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore on duet vocals, 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.”
Carolyn Wonderland, born Carolyn Bradford in Houston, Texas in 1972, grew up in a house full of music and instruments. She first starting playing guitar at age six. 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 and Joe “Guitar” Hughes, 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.
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. 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). “Sometimes he’ll just call,” Wonderland says. “I haven’t changed my number.”
Benson went on to produce Wonderland’s next four albums, all critically acclaimed fan favorites. 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 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.”