Since her days as a teenager busking on the Venice Beach boardwalk, Sunny War has built a sound all to her own. And in recent years, the singer, whose real name is Sydney Lyndella Ward, has made it a point to share her truly notable gifts with the world. In the past three years, she's played NPR's Tiny Desk and released a flurry of albums, including fresh collaborations War and Pierce, with fellow California songwriter Chris Pierce, and Particle War, in collaboration with Micah Nelson's experimental future-folk project Particle Kid.
"She is known as a funk-punk phenom [with a] unique guitar style [that] has been compared to Robert Johnson," host Kathy Mattea notes. "She has lived on the streets, has battled and is in recovery from her own addiction, has befriended veterans with PTSD, and she started an L.A. chapter of Food Not Bombs, after benefitting from their work when she lived in San Francisco. This remarkable woman has done a lot of living in her relatively short life."
War opened up with the title track of her March 2020 EP, Can I Sit With You? followed by another song from the project, "She Just Don't Care."
With her thumb and finger swiftly caressing the strings of "Big Baby," her Guild guitar, War's haunting, understated vocals painted sidewalk scenes of longing and belonging in "Can I Sit With You?"
"Swimming in a fishbowl / In the world that we call life / Really want to feel hope / Never have, but soon I might / Sun shines like gold / You got a smile that I like / Can I sit with you?"
If War felt at home on stage, there was at least one good reason: She was accompanied by Ayron Davis on bass, a childhood friend who was also one of the only other Black kids on the LA punk scene. Davis and War tumbled sweetly together down a rabbit-hole jam on her poignant 2018 song, "Age Of A Man," before closing out with the cinematic "Lucid Lucy," off her critically acclaimed album from March of this year, Simple Syrup.
"Choose where you go and see where you have been / Lucid Lucy you'll see stars again / Tears in this world become waterfalls / Where there's no borders where there are no walls /Where happiness is no dream at all / Lucid Lucy you'll be ten feet tall."