Sunny War (from the album Simple Syrup available on Hen House Studios) (by Chris Wheatley)
Based in Los Angeles, singer-songwriter and street-musician Sunny War is not your typical guitarist, nor your typical anything for that matter. For a start, she plays her six-string in a manner repurposed from banjo techniques, playing the bass strings with her thumb while using her forefinger upstrokes to sound notes and chords. The other fingers are left unused. Then too, Sunny War is clearly a deeply committed player, whose creativity and sensibilities are indelibly entwined with her art. Over the last few months she has marched for Black Lives Matter and founded a chapter of non-profit organization Food Not Bombs, distributing vegan food to the homeless. Her new album Simple Syrup is as deeply personal as all of her work. Focusing on a core trio of War, bassist Ayron Davis, and drummer Paul Allen, it is, says Sunny ‘an album you can listen to when you want to get away’.
Album opener “Lucid Lucy” drifts on a cloud of finger-picked guitar and bowed strings. Sunny War's voice is emotive and highly expressive, with a distinctive edge and, at the same time, a pleasing smoothness. Her guitar weaves deceptively simple patterns which sparkle with arresting tones. ‘Keep your eyes closed, closed real tight, let them shuffle at the speed of light’. Lyrically, War is never less than interesting. There's plenty of invention here, a certain dreamy lucidity which skips and flutters, but is kept grounded by Sunny War's earthy delivery. “Mama's Milk”, by contrast, bounces with a shuffling Funk beat, replete with shimmering cymbals and more of War's guitar, which jumps and runs like a summer stream. It is an ear-catching track, with an irrepressible vibe pitched somewhere between upbeat Americana and old-school R&B.
“Like Nina” slows things down again with some melodic acoustic work playfully running alongside electric guitar. It's a track that takes its time and is all the better for it. This is an impressionistic Turner-like musical canvas, where shapes coalesce and dissipate, and shining points of focus glimmer and gleam. When the vocals kick in, the interplay between voice and guitar is arresting. There's something of a call-and-response work-song feel to this piece. It's a track which lingers long in the soul. “A Love So True” unwinds with gentle urgency, a sweltering night-time adventure which boils out into a soft, Jazzy, upbeat delight. This is, indeed, music to lose yourself in.
“Love Is A Pest” circles with delicate flute and distinctly African-sounding guitar; mesmerizing, subtly changing finger-picked patterns with nuanced flourishes. An edge of wah-wah guitar, together with Sunny War's highly-listenable voice, combine with ringing chimes and hand-drums to create something intriguingly diverse in its tones. For all the disparate elements, this track, as with the whole album, comes together wonderfully. “Deployed and Destroyed”, a painful tale taken from real events, is as moving as it is engrossing. “Big Baby” takes us out with more of War's slow, sparkling guitar and visceral vocals.
Simple Syrup combines the style and feel of several genres of Roots music, and does so to great effect. In Sunny War's capable hands, Blues, Country, West-African music, Jazz, R&B, and Folk merge seamlessly into a captivating tapestry of sound. (by Chris Wheatley)
Listen and buy the music of Sunny War from AMAZON
For more information, bounce over to the Sunny War website