Between resilience and rebellion, when you think of Sunny War's career, you can't help but think of Fantastic Negrito's. Like him, she draws light from her darker side, avoiding the abyss at every turn by devoting herself body and soul to rock-tinged folk and blues, enhanced by the warmth of her voice.
She who has not had an easy life makes ours a little better with every note. With gentleness, she tells her story. From the frequent moves of her childhood to her addiction-ridden past. From hardships and desert crossings to multiple redemptions. From the heaviness of loss to the lightness of rebirth. Each chord seems to hang from the thread of her life, as if from the strings of her guitar, which she plays with virtuoso freedom and an inventiveness that surprises even the greatest.
But behind this almost angelic voice, the singer has a punk-attitude. With her rebellious look, she thwarts the prognostications and cheerfully escapes from the smallest jar where one would like to confine her. Intrepid, certainly, indocile, always! A fierce freedom that goes hand in hand with boundless vulnerability. Behind her lyrics, there's always honesty, sometimes at the limit of what's bearable, sometimes repeated like a mantra.
Sunny War is an intimate nugget who no longer promises herself a cure, but perseveres. A sensitive singer who wears her emotions on her lips. A lyricist who can't escape the pain of life, but who has decided to turn it into a strength and embrace who she is, intensely. As she sums it up herself: "Everyone's a beast doing their best to be good. That's what being human is all about. And that beast is wonderful.
After dropping out of school at an early age, Sunny War moved to Venice Beach to hang out and play guitar, at the same time as falling into addiction. From this dark period, she nonetheless drew some positives. With her punk band, Anus Kings, she quickly made a name for herself, thanks in particular to her unique pick-less thumb-and-index style. Her virtuosity reached the ears of LA Weekly's critics, and led to a collaboration with Gibson Guitars.
A few years later, we find Sunny War solo, still wrestling with his demons, but whose music has mellowed a little. His first album, Worthless, is an acoustic gem that is far too little known. On subsequent albums, some of which were self-produced, she continued to explore blues and folk, willingly stepping on the gas with a touch of rock, and enjoying growing success in the USA.
In 2021, her gentle track Lucid Lucy had already racked up millions of streams. But this time, the artist, who is no longer an oxymoron away, has released a folk-blues nugget entitled Gospel Anarchy. In it, she exposes herself with violence and vulnerability, in lyrics and interpretation that are almost desperate but always true. Once again, the singer proves that she knows how to appropriate the codes of roots music without getting bogged down in a style that has already been deciphered many times over.
It's the first time in a long time that I've been so dazzled by guitar playing. That's what strikes you first, before the singer opens her mouth and gives her voice. And that's when we embark with her into the depths of her soul. A music full of authenticity and strong emotions, shared without restraint by this sublime artist.
Sunny War is far from being a discovery, and we're delighted that this artist is gaining ground on our side of the Atlantic. With her gentle, inimitable voice and heart-rending lyrics, she's one of the few singers and guitarists who reveals herself completely, and isn't afraid to take us on a journey as dark as it is bright, between a tortuous past and a hopeful future.
Like Will Oldham and Mark EItzel and the great sad folk singers of our time, when she sings, Sunny War has that same sense of effortless expressiveness in every turn of phrase and that same ability to find light somewhere in the midst of darkness.