Look out, world -- here comes Wendy Woo.
She's touring the coasts, has just put out her fifth CD, and is getting national notice from the music industry. Woo is busy as a bee, but she's happily poised on the edge of greatness.
The award-winning Woo and her band will be playing at 32 Bleu on Saturday, July 31, to promote their newest album. It's the first time they have played in Colorado Springs -- a challenge that Woo takes on eagerly. With intuitive response to the audience, her magnetic onstage presence bounces somewhere between serenity and wild child.
The singer/guitarist hails from Boulder, but now resides in Denver. Straddling two scenes works well for Woo. "It's nice to be able to work both markets," she said. "Whenever we play in Denver, we play a lot of upbeat dance music and covers; in Boulder we do a lot of jamming. I would guess Colorado Springs will be a mix of both."
Woo's music reflects her multicultural heritage, covering everything from down-and-dirty blues to sambas and wistful ballads. Growing up in Colorado, she was acknowledged as a vital part of Boulder's "organic scene," a designation that is vague in an artsy way. "Being from Boulder, I grew up with the Beat scene, which is described as 'organic' -- my parents moved out to Boulder in the early '70s to found the Naropa Institute. I grew up around that creativity," she said.
Her songs strike a chord with their immediate intimacy. "My last album (Gonna Wear Red) was about recovery, loss and change -- my mother had just died," said Woo. Her latest album Walking the Skyline goes down smooth, with a rich vocal style and songwriting imagery that has earned her plenty of comparisons to such earthy chanteuses as Natalie Merchant and Rickie Lee Jones. Transitioning easily from acoustic solo pieces to full-on funk, the album feels urban, like one you'd want to have while walking around the city. "Walking is about living in the city," she agrees. "Having moved from Boulder to Denver ... it's such a short distance, but it's an amazingly different scene.
"It's like a new-life album," Woo said. "There are some love songs, but not to a specific person. Sort of life-love songs. It's cool -- so far, each of my albums have been sort of a chapter in life."
The song "Angels Laughing" is a Merchant-esque ballad that feels personal and otherworldly. "I had the phrase 'angels laughing' in my head, and I had just gotten out of this long relationship and was living on my own, taking myself to dinner at night," said Woo. "You know the restaurants where they give you a paper tablecloth and crayons? I wrote 'Angels Laughing' at the top, and the whole song on the tablecloth. After dinner I ripped the tablecloth off, and stuck it in my pocket and walked home and picked up a guitar -- it was one I wrote really quickly."
Walking has earned a positive response, and CD sales are halfway through the second thousand copies. It was released in all major cities in May, so the Colorado Springs show will actually be the last release party for the CD. After major stops in Los Angeles and the Midwest, Woo is excited about the 32 Bleu show. "I love playing in Colorado -- coming home is amazing."
-- Kara Luger
Saturday, July 31, 8:30 p.m.
32 Bleu, 32 S. Tejon St.
$7; Call 955-5664.