by KYLE POGUE
Elise Wunder’s music is heavy in a way that does not suggest world weariness so much as it does the innate wisdom of an old soul. Her lyrics, written in a stream of consciousness style, leave wide space for personal interpretation but are nonetheless clearly autobiographical. Wunder seems to be baring her soul, both the strong parts and the weak, despite her best efforts to protect herself from our prying ears. She can’t help but bleed when she sings, and the vulnerability of her art drives into our hearts with the force of a hammer.
There are many elements of American music present in her songs. The natural blues, as Taj Mahal called it, are there. The spiraling, formless apparition of 60’s jazz? Check. There are even the footprints of early R&B, when the bluesmen first ventured out of the country and began to incorporate the experiences and sounds they found waiting for them in the city. There’s the touch of gospel. There is country music. And let’s not forget rock and roll.
Elise Wunder’s music encompasses the genre of Americana more so than any Colorado artist I have ever heard. It’s all there, but blended and fused. She does not bludgeon you with varying styles. This is not her “blues song.” This, not her “jazz tune.” The swirling, soulful styles that have gathered in her and come out in such well crafted form are seamless and contain all eras at once.
Elise’s debut album, In The Darkness Of My Light, certainly has the quiet, confident whisper of Bob Dylan, from whose lyrics she paraphrased her title, but it also echoes through the decades and speaks to us from a new and original place, and with a voice that takes you by surprise, especially when she sets it loose at an unexpected moment and you realize the power that she has been holding back. It’s a cannon and a paintbrush, at once.
But the most subtle aspect of her songs, and the artist herself, is the thin line of darkness that runs through the center of it all. There is a lean towards the abyss, a nod to the void. Maybe it’s a curiosity about the dark alleys, the unlit streets, and the things that you can only find there when you go looking for them yourself. Whatever it is, it’s easy to overlook in her songs, comes naturally to the singer, and is the final ingredient necessary in creating truly soulful music.
Elise has been on a writing sabbatical for the last two months on an island off the coast of Bellingham, Washington in the San Juan Islands. Staying in the country home of a friend, surrounded by wilderness on three sides and the endless horizon of the Pacific to the west, she has been healing damaged vocal cords, working on songs for her next album and further exploring her beautiful collection of acoustic and electric guitars. Breakthroughs have happened for her out there on that island in the sea, she told me. And she has come back to us now. We’ve been waiting.