As a homeless teenage runaway Sunny War found a way to survive by busking and playing music anywhere she could. She learned guitar from a very young age and now writes songs with a mixture of folk, punk and blues influences. What is most intriguing about this artist is her distinctive fingerpicking guitar playing style, showcased throughout With the Sun.
Opener If It Wasn’t Broken establishes the introspective mood of the album, addressing the heartbreak that inspired many of these songs. She is a naturally downbeat, understated singer which means the vocals can take some getting used to, but there’s something really interesting about the tone of her delivery, especially on this track.
Gotta Live It addresses some of her personal issues, listing all the ways she has struggled to define herself in life. She acknowledges her own mistakes and accepts she will have to live with them. ‘I’m Human’ takes an unflinching look at many of the prevailing issues around racism in America. By singing ‘I’m Human’ she makes a plea for those who discrimate to think about what unites us rather than divides us.
With The Sun is a kind of anthem for Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers everywhere, exploring how she feels ‘down’ when it gets dark. He is My Cell is a startlingly powerful song title, and the opening line ‘I can’t stay and I can’t leave’ cuts to the heart of how many feel in relationships. Violent also hints at the problems she faces dealing with her emotions.
There’s a brighter feel to The Change You Make, with the sound of children playing and a faster tempo. And To Love You is a straight, traditional love song – one she wrote from her imagination rather than personal experience.
Til I’m Dead adds the country blues element to her sparse sound. ‘I got no money, I got no friends, I got nowhere to go… I don’t want to live and I don’t want to die’ and yet she sounds like she’s revelling in being outside of so-called normal society. Her guitar work on this song is almost hypnotic.
On YouTube there is a video of Sunny, entitled ‘Amazing Venice Beach Homeless Girl on Guitar’ where you can see her raw talent on display. The video actually has over seven million views, way more than any of her actual recorded music and portrays her to be ‘homeless by choice’ – a nomadic wanderer of sorts, living a vagabond existence that seems to be almost out of time. Her music has a similar otherworldly quality. Sunny has had previous publishing deals and collaborated with Gibson guitars but things have never worked out for her, perhaps as a result of her addictions and anarchistic lifestyle. This new album, plus her upcoming collaboration with Micah Nelson suggests that things are finally coming together for her in terms of her musical career.
With The Sun is probably a few tracks too long and therefore some songs do eventually start to blend into each other, but you can’t deny she is a special musician who will no doubt continue to walk her own path, guitar in hand for a long time to come.