Wonky Tonk & The HighLife Release New Album, 'Lessons & Lovers'
Wonky Tonk's latest album, "Lessons & Lovers," could not have come at a more fitting time, with the world upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stress, isolation and depression.
Despite being stranded in Ecuador, unable to return home to the U.S. because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the singer/songwriter decided to release "Lessons & Lovers" as originally scheduled. Even though the songs were recorded long before the coronavirus encompassed the world, some of them seem eerily relevant to current events.
"The album is about feeling lonely and broken and pushed out, but also the self-love and willpower to keep picking up and walking on, again," Wonky said. "As a whole, it is the concept of reframing anything that hurts or triggers your heart into a helpful lesson by way of love. I think that this record will appeal to anyone who likes to dance, scream, cry and breathe."
On "Lessons & Lovers," Wonky Tonk is joined by her band, the Highlife (Alessandro Corona, Eric Dietrich and Stephen Patota), along with guest artists Ricky Nye, Kate Wakefield, Chuck Cleaver (Wussy, The Ass Ponys), David Rhodes Brown (Warsaw Falcons) and David Lee Mayfield.
Equal parts country, rock-a-billy and indie rock, "Lessons & Lovers" addresses lost love, self-confidence, and rudeness. Wonky's vocals are deceptively sweet, as she sings lyrics that are sometimes provocative and other times humorous.
On "Cryin' Shame," Wonky sings of obsessive love: "Do you hear me calling, calling out your name, in my sleep and when I'm wakin', I know I must sound insane..."
"Never Trust a Doctor" is a playful, done-me-wrong song about a lying lover: "You say that you want me for the rest of your life, but which life is it, which bald-faced lie... Never trust a doctor with your heart."
On "Wonk On," Wonky seems to be putting a bad relationship behind her: "Put on these new boots, I got a feeling that I'm walking away from the blues, 'cause I've been running away from the memories of you for too long... I'm gonna wonk on, I'm wonkin' away from you."
"Everyone's Got a Brian," meanwhile, can be summed up as a four-letter-word confrontation with an unfriendly sound engineer, who insulted Wonky's band.
"The song is really about how easy it is to not be a jerk-face and how hard it is for most of the world to act in love," she said.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wonky Tonk (real name Jasmine Poole) grew up across the Ohio River, in Northern Kentucky. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Highlands High School, she studied digital design at the University of Cincinnati, before transferring to Northern Kentucky University, where she earned degrees in Electronic Media Broadcasting and Political Science, later serving two terms in AmeriCorps. She initially dreamed up being a vegan chef, filmmaker or entertainment lawyer. However, her professional goals shifted to music at age 25, after she was hospitalized for depression and anxiety.
"I went to a Tarot card reader, and she told me to follow my Dharma: to travel, entertain, teach and inspire," Wonky said. "Having nothing to lose, I listened and here we are. Life is weird."
Wonky Tonk has since gained a reputation as a musical free spirit, performing at venues throughout Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere. She has released two previous albums, "Get On the Train" and "Stuff We Leave Behind," as well as the EP "Super Holy Fantastic" and several singles.
"Lessons & Lovers" tracks
Patti Smith (1:56)
Cryin' Shame (5:06)
Never Trust A Doctor (4:12)
Stock Market (4:04)
Wonk On (5:38)
Inspire Me (3:28)
Peter Pan From Brooklyn (5:55)
Everyone's Got A Brian (3:41) (Explicit)
The 'Nasti (6:33)