Wynonna and the Big Noise: Roots and a Revival All In One
You know you’ve reached stardom when you’re recognized by only your first name. Wynonna Judd reached that benchmark decades ago, and what one critic has described as her “room-filling voice and outsized personality” is still going strong on the concert stage and in the recording studio.
Now she’s got a band to match her voice: they’re called “The Big Noise,” and their current concert tour is taking them from Massachusetts to California and dozens of points in between, including the meadow of the 2017 Beartrap, performing material from their newest self-titled album.
The long road trip is known as the “Roots and Revival Tour,” and critics have warmed to the new bluesy influence of Wynonna’s sound, calling her voice “strong, rich, complex, and having fun.”
Her approach to the new album is a major departure from her earlier seven, she says: “I didn’t have any of the things I’m used to. My comfort zone went out the door. For instance you go to the beautiful studio with the beautiful church windows and you have the intern running to get you a Starbucks. This time, we’re in a shed behind the house and I’m literally walking down there in my slippers, holding a Ziplock bag with my snacks in it. That was the catering.”
As a reviewer at the online journal Saving Country Music observes: “It’s hard to describe Wynonna & The Big Noise because the sound is so hard to pin down. ‘Country’ is probably the last thing that comes to mind, though it’s still there lurking in the background. Wynonna & The Big Noise is more of a blues, rock, and gospel record at heart, but encapsulating everything is the very advanced approach to composition and writing that makes it more than any one genre or subgenre. With the use of composition and chording, this album is strange to the ears … in a good way.”
Wynonna’s fans know she’s bouncing back from nearly a decade of troubles and heartbreak–from an acrimonious divorce, to a fall from a horse that almost broke her neck, and her new husband Cactus Moser’s motorcycle crash that cost him a leg.
“I’m coming out of an incredibly large challenging time in my life,” she says, “having done what I’ve done and accomplished. Lots of failure in the mix, which is actually what I’ve learned more from.” Wynonna is now at her best, health-wise and vocal-wise. Cactus was fitted with a prosthetic leg and is playing drums better than ever, she says. He also produced her new album.
The result? According to a reviewer from Rolling Stone Country, “Instead of glossy, peppy three-minute singles, she was drawn to songs such as the LP opener ‘Ain’t No Thing,’–a thick, greasy slice of Americana blues penned by Chris Stapleton with John Scott Sherrill, and featuring Susan Tedeschi. There are also the groovy, percussive ‘Cool Ya,” the classic barroom country of ‘Jesus and a Jukebox,’ and the redemptive ‘Things I Lean On’ with Jason Isbell.”
The CD’s free-wheeling approach carries over to the stage show, Wynonna says: “It’s just me letting it go. It’s the fiber of my being. Blues and Bluegrass are the biggest influences. After 37 years in the music business, I think this record is my musical coming-out party where I’m just letting everything come to the surface.
“Have you ever watched a kid throw a tantrum, when they’re not aware of where they are? They’re just in their own moment, just letting it all go. I think that’s what this record is for me. It’s my tantrum record.”