Wonky Tonk and the High Life
Lessons & Lovers
by Roy Peak
Imagine a life put on hold. You're a musician about to release your third album. You travel to Ecuador for a quick trip and plan on returning to the States just in time for the album release and ensuing tour. (With Justin Townes Earle, no less. R.I.P.) Then the pandemic strikes, gigs are cancelled left and right, and with the current state of political and societal affairs in your home country, you decide that it just may be best for you to stay put indefinitely.
This is what happened to Jasmine Poole, AKA Wonky Tonk. All these months later, and she's still there.
Wonky Tonk definitely goes her own unique way, you can hear a little bit of Lucinda Williams, a smattering of Shari Elf, and even some Tywanna Jo Baskette (intended or not) and I'm loving Ms. Wonk for it. (Much like Elf and Baskette, Tonk's songs are witty, heartfelt, quirky, and wholly original.) Tonk rocks hard and tough, she's not afraid to get noisy when the song calls for it, and the contrast between an abled noisy rhythm section and Tonk's high, sweet voice adds even more angst on many of these tunes.
Lessons & Lovers starts off with a poem/mantra put to a found-sound backdrop titled "Patti Smith," right before "Crying Shame" with it's walking bassline punches a hole into your heart.
"Stock Market" cleverly compares found and lost love to the rising and falling of the stock market exchange. Like many of these songs here, it's the imaginative instrumental sections that help to push these tunes beyond their purely lyrical components. Some composers match the music to the words, others know that often a contrast or a left turn at Albuquerque can make the point come across much stronger.
"Suitors" is a funny and uptempo country boot stomper about a woman who has too many guys wooing for her attention.
"Everyone's Got a Brian" is a not safe for work rant about a grumpy soundguy at a big outdoor festival. As someone who's been on both sides of that fence (soundguy and performer) I totally understand.
"Wonk On" is all about turning yourself around to get away from a relationship but instead of "walk on" it's "wonk on" because it's Wonky Tonk and she does what she wants, and is my contender for uplifting single of the year.
I'm hoping for the best in the future from Honky Tonk, may she finally make it back to her home (wherever she decides that should be) and may this soon be a country worth her returning to.
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville.