Sunny War has been making music since she was a small child, after being shown the blues early on by family members. After teaching herself to play guitar, and over the course of a few album releases, the world begun to take notice of this dynamic, new singer-songwriter with a new age, gutsy style of folk. Sunny War has currently been on a solo tour around the country, with gigs at folk festivals as well as at music venues from Boston to Washington D.C to her home state of California. Earlier this week, she performed at the famed NYC club Arlene’s Grocery a more intimate showing, and the lucky crowd of people crowding around the stage seemed to be mixed of both followers and newcomers.
She began with the “Tomorrow Someone New,” and the room dove headfirst into her tender, meditative music for the night. War’s songs sneakily veer the line between feel good and heartbreaking, yet even the heartbreaking tunes sound just as sweet. Wether she’s singing about more something positive like self-discovery, or about tougher subjects like pain and hardship, the whole package of her melodies and her voice and her guitar playing draw one in completely.
Yes, War’s guitar playing is truly mystifying. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding it among her fans, and hearing her for the first time, and when you do hear her it’s instantly clear why. It’s easeful enough that it compliments her delicate songs perfectly, but there’s a fluidity to it that mesmerizes both visually and by the way it carries along the tune beside her voice. Watching War perform live, seeing her hands flow around the neck of the guitar with grace, it feels like one of those things in which you believe your eyes or ears, may be deceiving you. Two fans pleaded for specific songs they were aching to hear. One, an original, “Man of My House,” displayed the deftest of her guitar picking abilities, and the other was her creative cover of “Blackbird,” set to an alternative rhythm that matched her style.
While fully of the range of her styles and her musical talents, War’s set at Arlene’s Grocery was also imbued, not very subtly, with a kind of charming exasperation. Her stage presence centered around a bemused humility, in which she didn’t seem one hundred percent sure of her abilities in the present moment. At one point she broke some silence with: “I had this song I was going to do for you, but I don’t want to sing it anymore. So, I’m going to do something else.” Wether it was intentional or not, her personality won the audience over in the same subtle manner as her music. The crowd was enthralled enough to ask War to return to the stage three times for an multiple encores.
To get an idea of Sunny War’s appeal, check out her performance of “Gotta Live It” on the video series Jam In The Van from last year. For more information on the artist, head to http://www.sunnywar.com.