What Man? Oh THAT Man!

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Second CD for Sunday Wilde

M. McKinnon

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Sunday Wilde – Atikokan’s own Ange Sponchia – is turning heads with her newest release, a nearly all original 11 song collection, What Man? Oh THAT Man!

Wilde teamed up with bassist, and rockabilly legend, Ronnie Hayward and world-renown guitarist David West late last year to record the CD in Thunder Bay. She’d been working on the songs – ten of her own creations – for well over a year.

Once she shared the songs and her piano arrangement with them, they developed the guitar and bass lines. Originally, she thought she’d just record the vocals and piano, and then have Hayward and West overlay their parts. But once they got together, and started working on the music, they found that as a trio, they added a richness and spontaneity to the music.

“It was a really positive thing for me, as an amateur, to work with such pros,” said Wilde. “These are my songs, my chord progressions – but it is a collaboration. Once we started working the songs together, we really fit… It was quite an experience.”

That makes sense, actually. Wilde is more of an old school blues vocalist – most women on the scene today are more blues rock oriented – and her style clearly inspires the musicians with whom she is working.

She and Hayward worked on the songs for a couple of days, and once West arrived, they had one evening together and then went into the studio (GWS Productions in Thunder Bay) for two very long days of recording.

“It really came together that weekend… It was hard, and fast, and by the end of it I was completely burned out.”

It didn’t get any easier, either. That was in mid-September, and she had just received the test copy of the recording in early November when her mom got sick and, a few days later, died.

The disk

Wilde is a self-taught pianist. When she decided she wanted to give full voice to her musical stirrings, she realized she had to play an instrument. Her development in that regard over the past four and five years is nothing short of astounding. She calls herself an amateur, but her piano work on this disk fits in seamlessly with the work of her vastly more experienced musical partners, Hayward and West.

Contrast the way her piano carries the first cuts on the disk – the lively work on THAT Man drives me mad and the dirge-like tune in Midnight Blues – with the playful interaction of Heyward’s bass and West’s guitar on the third cut, Show me a man. She’s more than holding her own with these guys.

Wilde shows a solid command of a variety of piano styles: straight blues predominates, but she adopts an almost honky-tonk style on THAT Man drives me mad, and even a bit of that old boogie woogie on My Baby’s Dead.

Vocally, her growth is quite evident as well. Her phrasing, intonation and musicality are all far more expressive than they were a few years ago. Part of that is no doubt because these are her songs (all save Sorrowful Blues, anyway, which is by Bessie Smith and Irving Johns), but it is very clear this music is coming from deep within.

She has a powerful voice, but is using that power much more judiciously now – which serves to highlight the emotional power and intensity in the music, vocal delivery and lyrics. The sweet, gentle restraint of Time to Say Goodbye is a great example of this. (West is at his very best in this one, too; his guitar is an absolutely perfect complement to Wilde’s vocal.)

And while the resulting package is intense, it also comes across as very true to herself. There is anger, sadness, and pain here, but also a loving playfulness and musical joy that makes the whole experience an enjoyable one to share.


The CD has gotten a very positive reception. THAT Man drives me mad has been nominated for an Independent Music Award, and is a featured part of The Alternate Root’s Valentine’s Day sampler collection. (She had a song featured there last year, too. It was downloaded 5,000 times.) The CD itself has spent considerable time in the top ten on the Roots and Blues charts, has gotten air play worldwide (it’s in the CBC Radio national library, and has air play here, in the U.S., Spain and Italy), and is currently a disk of the month on the At The Crossroads syndicated blues show

Wilde knows that for the CD to really take off, she would have to travel and perform. That’s a tough one. “I don’t want to go on the road by myself,” she says. And neither Heyward or West are in a position to hit the road with her.

“They both said they couldn’t understand why I can’t find a band here to play with….” she said, adding with a laugh that they are very much city guys, unfamiliar with the small, rather isolated world of the Northwest.

Wilde did play at a club in Toronto, with Heyward. “They didn’t have a piano, and that made it tough for me. He was making a big to do about me though, so I pretty much had to. But it worked out really well.”

She’s also played Ruby Moon’s in Thunder Bay, made it to the Blues Summit in Toronto in January, and will head back there for a month shortly.

Balancing family (she has two sons) and the need to maintain an income, makes music a real challenge. It was Ontario Arts Council support that allowed her to write and produce What Man? Oh THAT Man, but she has accepted that it is a tough act balancing music and ‘regular’ life. It’s worth it, though.

“It comes down to people listening to the songs and relating to them… making an impact as an artist, from one heart to another,” she says. “You have to do it, even if it costs you.”

Sunday Wilde’s What Man? Oh THAT Man is available at Voyageur Books and Gifts, and on I-Tunes.

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