Sunny War – Simple Syrup
I missed Sunny War a few times in the past because of other commitments but I’m glad I managed to listen to her latest 10-cut Simple Syrup (Drops March 27-Independent) this time around. I was always interested in her work because she reminded me of three female singers who I admire – Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman & Laura Burgo. Sunny always had a little more of a modern jazz-bent to her vocals crossed with the uniqueness of Valerie June, who’s a little more out there & the classic finesse on her intonations & phrasing of Lena Horne (that may be undetected by younger listeners).
This particular collection isn’t fiery but on the surface the songs are well-recorded with a loose feeling which can be just as hard to achieve as recording something tight & fiery. Sunny covers everything from politics to romance but judging from the showcase she wisely keeps a lid on it & succeeds still in getting her message across.
Recorded in Venice Beach, CA she starts her CD with the gentle folky tale vivid & poignant on “Lucid Lucy,” that bellows low with a cello (Niall Taro Ferguson) & the more upbeat “Mama’s Milk,” with good acoustics (Sunny, joined by Aroyn Davis (bass), Paul Allen (drums) & Matt Demerritt (sax).
The CD gets off to a slow start, but the quality is still present. By cut 5 “A Love So True,” I heard the possibility of the late Nina Simone covering such a song. The groove is right, the timbre in Sunny’s voice suggests such a vocal approach. Sunny’s guitar playing is fluid.
Track 6 starts to open the CD like a tropical fruit. All the songs from here on in are sophisticated & significant.
“Losing Hand,” is an excellent vocal with groove & cello which makes the song so original in light of the kind of music that this laid down as. Excellent musicianship. “Love Is a Pest,” continues Sunny in a deep vocal tonality – gentle moments, slow additions of warm sax & bells. Almost in a breathy “Girl from Ipanema,” (Astrud Gilberto) or Claudine Longet air. Effective presentation.
Cut 8 is solo Sunny on the intriguing “Its Name Is Fear,” who plays excellent acoustic guitar with clarity & bass as she sings with a rich well-defined vocal. The 9th & 10th cuts are both strong. “Deployed & Destroyed,” returns to a more Tracy Chapman style & “Eyes,” is exceptional. Few artists can perform in a stripped-down fashion & still provide an intense memorable set – it’s here.
Other musicians: Milo Gonzalez (guitar), & Angelo Moore (of Fishbone on background vocals/theremin).
Less produced than her last LP this is still a well-recorded effort. The 39-minute CD produced by Harlen Steinberger (bells).
Available @ http://www.sunnywar.com/ Read our interview, here: Interview: Sunny War on Food Not Bombs, Venice Beach Sound and Simple Syrup