Wonky Tonk and the Highlife w/ the Muckrockers
Trumpet Blossom Cafe — Wednesday, April 17 at 8 p.m.; $10 cover
Often, live music relies heavily on a steady lineup composed of people who know each song forward and backward and have a specific relationship to their bandmates and the material itself.
However, Jasmine Poole, also known as the Wonk, lead member of Wonky Tonk and the Highlife, might advocate for something less traditional, more malleable and rooted more in the unique experience of each performance, rather than a more one-size-fits-every-gig attitude.
Defined as off center, irregular and all and all different, the Wonk’s lineup changes between events, leaving a specific and attentive imprint on every town she plays. Poole tours intermittently as a band, a duo or just herself, playing heartfelt country-folk hybrid music that changes depending on who and what she brings with her.
“There’s sort of a stigma about solo artists, especially solo women … But if you can call yourself a duo, you get paid more … for me, the way I approach music, I want the song to have it’s best life. I don’t normally dictate what people have to play, I’d rather just have the people just play what they think the music elicits.”
“It’s art,” she continued. “It gives a different flavor and has different meanings to different individuals.”
Poole is a Kentucky resident and longtime musician. She’s funny, and has a sort of raspy speaking voice.
“My grandmother is from Ireland and would always say the word ‘wonky,’” she said in a phone conversation. “I had a band for a high school chemistry class called The Wonky Donkey’ … and eventually someone asked who was the ‘wonk’ and who was the ‘donk.’ I was coined the ‘wonk,’ and it just sort of went from there.”
Poole and I connected for our conversation a little later than planned, playing a brief round of phone tag as they got back to the road. She and her partner for this leg of the tour, Anna Applegate, had been led off route by their GPS in search of their next venue. Poole and company regularly drive themselves on tours, which can lead to unexpected adventures. Their regular tour van, Loretta, is being repaired in Kentucky right now. They’ll be taking their rental, which they’ve named Antonio, on their route to Iowa.
“I like to give everything love and respect, even if it’s a machine,” Poole said. “If you’re living in a van on the road, it’s every bit as much a part of the band as you are, so I love to give it a name … For Loretta, I just thought of the most badass, hardworking lady I know, and I thought of Loretta Lynn. It gives them soul.”
Poole draws musically from female country powerhouses like Lynn, too, as well as from elements of folk and classic singer-songwriters like Lucinda Williams; Wonk’s personal songwriting and acoustic-to-the-guts sound transcend genre — but not relatability. The Wonk with the Highlife, or the Wonk as a duo, will be touring until at least later July, playing in venues across the Midwest and beyond.
This will be the first show in Iowa City for any Wonk lineup incarnation, and Poole looks forward to bringing her music, as well as her new, collaborative sounds with Applegate, to Trumpet Blossom. Poole looks forward to this tour and the new sounds that it might bring to her longer-standing work.
“Especially on this run, this is the first tour I’ve had with just another lady before, and it’s just been [an expression of] beautiful, female goddess power. We’re going to bring the love this tour, I think.”
Keep an eye out for Lessons not Lovers, Wonky Tonk and the Highlife’s second full length release, slated for release later this year.