Sunny War – Anarchist Gospel (Indie Exclusive, Clear Vinyl, Red, Sticker, Gatefold LP Jacket)
Folk singer Sunny War lived a lifetime by the time she was 25, experiencing addition and homelessness before using music to help pull herself out. These events inform War’s songwriting, providing perspective on Anarchist Gospel, War’s first album on a major label.
Across 14 songs and 50 minutes, War blends folk, gospel, rock, country and soul, effortlessly channeling Tracy Chapman one moment and Nina Simone the next.
War cuts straight to the quick on opening track “Love’s Death Bed,” discussing the break-up that precipitated a move from Los Angeles to Nashville, where War grew up. Her kiss-off is almost on par with Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”: “But I hope it was fun,” War sings, “being the last heartbreak of mine.”
War gets several high-profile assists from David Rawlings on acoustic guitar and banjo, Allison Russell and Jim James from My Morning Jacket. Rawlings appears on several tracks, including a surprising (and profane) cover of Ween’s “Baby Bitch.” Russell takes a verse on the album’s other cover, Van Hunt’s “Hopeless.”
But War’s original songs are what power Anarchist Gospel. James appears on “Earth,” an evocative song about the poor state of the environment. “Sound the alarm,” War cries out. “Reach out to your fake God/Time to disarm/The soldiers of the facade.”
It took War a half-dozen albums and nearly a decade to climb to the point where she has major-label support and top-shelf collaborators. Anarchist Gospel demonstrates War is in it for the long haul. – Joel Francis