Once heralded by Rolling Stone as “the greatest female country singer since Patsy Cline,” Wynonna is an American treasure who has sold more than 30 million albums through a 35-year career.
She appears with her band, Wynonna & the Big Noise, Sept. 15 at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert.
From duo to solo
The Judds, the duo that featured Wynonna with her mother Naomi Judd, became one of the most popular country acts of the ’80s, releasing seven albums and charting 14 No. 1 hits.
That successful pairing ended abruptly, however, when Naomi stopped performing due to health issues, leaving Wynonna to segue into a solo career.
Continuing right where she left off, Wynonna released several solo albums over the next decade, three of which were certified platinum, and reached No. 1 with six more singles.
If that were all, there could be little to argue against the fact that Wynonna has had a phenomenal career, but she wants us to know it’s far from over as the reinvigorated Wynonna continues to record and perform as the front woman of her new project Wynonna & the Big Noise.
Great advice from Grohl
The first new music from Wynonna in seven years, the eponymous debut album from Wynonna & the Big Noise was released in 2016 to critical acclaim. Featuring guest appearances by Jason Isbell, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks and offering up songs written by Chris Stapleton, Julie Miller, and Sarah Siskind, the album represents a rebirth of sorts for Wynonna with the music and performances on the disc harkening back to her roots.
It was a direction suggested by her husband Cactus Moser, who is also the drummer and leader of the band.
“When you hear my voice on this record, it’s very vulnerable, it’s very raw, very real,” Wynonna told The Bluegrass Situation at the time. “It’s a one-track take. There’s no perfection. There’s less of that (perfection) than ever before, which is scary but exciting.”
The new approach came about as she also followed the advice of an unlikely source, Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl, who told her to just “let go” and forget about trying to control every outcome.
It allowed her to “get out of the way of myself and the agenda I have and just interpret the songs, like an actor would in a scene. I can just sit there and sing the song while the band plays now. That advice (from Grohl) was huge for me.”
If you don’t recognize the name Cactus Moser, you probably weren’t a country fan in the ’80s and ’90s when Moser was the drummer of Highway 101, a band that charted 17 songs in that era, including four No. 1 hits.
Moser married Wynonna in 2012. Although they have been married only seven years, the pair has already been through a lot together. Moser was in a horrible motorcycle accident just couple of months after the marriage and had to have one of his legs amputated, leading to a long recovery period in which he had to totally depend on his new bride.
“I went from Wynonna the singer to Wynonna the wife, the nurse, the cook, the driver,” she told The Boot in an interview. “We’re talking real down-in-the-trenches, hardcore stuff that you don’t really think you’re gonna have to go to [in a marriage].”
But they got through it.
Moser has regained his ability to play the drums and the pair have a bond that can now never be broken. The whole ordeal is chronicled in a terrific documentary available on YouTube.
Touring and Recording
The band’s live show now typically features Wynonna, Moser, and the rest of The Big Noise playing songs from their album intertwined with Wynonna’s career hits, along with a few surprises.
“No One Else on Earth” is a live staple as are “To Be Loved by You” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days),” but don’t be surprised if the band sneaks in a Stevie Ray Vaughan song or celebrates the career of Tom Petty with a few numbers that should be instantly recognizable.
You’ll also get a feel for Wynonna’s uncanny ability to tell a story as she often offers up background information on some of her songs.
She also likes to show off her sense of humor, often self-deprecating, and banters back and forth with Moser on occasion, where it becomes evident just how much these two musicians love each other and enjoy each other’s company, even when they are in front of thousands of adoring fans on a lighted stage.
When they aren’t on a bus or on a stage, the pair live on a farm in Tennessee, where they have built a recording studio and where they are recording the new Wynonna & the Big Noise album.
Eagerly anticipated, the album is being produced by Moser once again. But there seems to be no rush as they take all the time they need and use all the resources available to them to tinker with new sounds and instruments to broaden their sonic palette so that the album turns out to be the best it can be.
It’s a labor of love in more ways than one.
“Getting to do the musical part together, instead of separate, is a bonus,” Moser said. “When you love what you do and love each other, it’s perfect.”
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