New Music From Sunny War

Posted on Feb 8, 2023
New Music From Sunny War

Sunny War released her New West label debut Anarchist Gospel on February 3. The 14-song set was produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and features appearances by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Allison Russell, David Rawlings, Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs, Micah Nelson, John James Tourville of The Deslondes, Kyshona Armstrong, Dennis Crouch, The School Zone Children’s Choir, and more. With Anarchist Gospel, War has crafted an eclectic set of songs that draw on a range of ideas and styles: ecstatic gospel, dusty country blues, thoughtful folk, rip-roaring rock and roll, even avant garde studio experiments. She melds them together into a powerful statement of survival, revealing a probing songwriter who indulges no comforting platitudes. “I feel like there are two sides of me,” says the singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso. “One of them is very self-destructive, and the other is trying to work with that other half to keep things balanced.”

That’s the central conflict on Anarchist Gospel, which documents a time when it looked like the self-destructive side might win out. Even as War was developing a guitar style that married acoustic punk to country blues, her two sides were already at odds. She began drinking heavily as a teenager before dropping out of school and quickly becoming addicted to heroin and meth.  A series of seizures landed her in a sober living facility in Compton, so emaciated that she could only wear children’s pajamas. Music remained a lifeline, and she fell in with a crew at Hen House Studios in Venice, where over the years she made a series of albums and EPs, including 2018’s With the Sun and 2021’s Simple Syrup. Twelve years after she kicked meth and heroin, Anarchist Gospel documents a moment when Sunny War had finally gained the upper hand on her self-destructive side, only to watch that stability crumble. After a difficult breakup and her lease in Los Angeles ended, she moved back to her hometown of Nashville, where she was born and lived until she was twelve years old. Among the items she packed were demos for several new songs of heartache and hard-won hope. She booked sessions with Tokic and captured a raw energy in Anarchist Gospel. As the recording wound down, Sunny received word that her father was in the hospital and wasn’t going to make it. She says, “This album represents such a crazy period in my life, between the breakup and the move to Nashville and my dad dying. But now I feel like the worst parts are over. What I learned, I think, is that the best thing to do is just to feel everything and deal with it. Just feel everything.” Because it promises not healing but resilience and perseverance, because it doesn’t take anything for granted, Anarchist Gospel holds up under such intense emotional pressure, acknowledging the pain of living while searching for something that lies just beyond ourselves, some sense of balance between the bad and the good.

“Thrilling” – NPR Music

“It all amounts to a powerful statement from a singer-songwriter poised to become one of the year’s most vital voices in roots music.” – Rolling Stone

“Sunny War’s Anarchist Gospel is 2023’s first great album.” – Louder Than War 

“Should be the breakthrough that lifts her to a new level in the Americana field, a prominence that is long overdue.” – Paste Magazine

FCC Warning: Track 8, “Baby Bitch,” Track 12, “Test Dummy”

Recommended Tracks: Track 2, “No Reason,” Track 11, “Higher (featuring David Rawlings),” Track 7, “New Day,” Track 14, “Whole”

Label: New West Records

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