A well-known name in the Cleveland community, singer-songwriter Joe Wunderle moved to Cincinnati earlier this year but not before recording his terrific debut full-length, Nowhere From Here. The album, a collection of folk-y tunes that Wunderle wrote over the past couple of years, comes out on Sunday on all digital platforms.
“I was born in Akron and lived in Lakewood for a long time,” he says via phone. “I listened to all kinds of stuff. I used to be really into death metal and rock ’n’ roll but also blues and folk music. I started writing my own songs when I was 18. I’ve been writing for a long time.”
Recorded last year in a two-room apartment above the Plank Road Tavern in Lakewood, the album features guest appearances by several local musicians. The street sounds come through the windows and the barroom downstairs leak into the 11-track release that tells of “mankind’s continual demise and rise from struggle from all things personal to surreal.”
“We just sat in my living room and recorded where I sat and wrote the tunes,” Wunderle says. “I had a blanket hanging up that divided that room from the rest of the apartment. I used it for heat, but I think it did some sound dappening.”
The disc includes Anthony Papaleo (Mo’ Mojo, Rebekah Jean) on fiddle, Jason Willis (Cory Grinder Band) on upright bass, Austin Stambaugh on mandolin and Stephen “Tebbs” Karney (Rodney & the Regulars) on pedal steel. The pedal steel really drives songs like opening number “Keep the Rain,” a twangy tune sounds like a cross between Uncle Tupelo and Bob Dylan. Somber songs such as “Gone Too Far” have such a familiar feel that they sound like traditional ballads.
“Tebbs I had seen playing with Rodney & the Regulars and the Cory Grinder Band. He’s awesome. I’ve been friends with him ever since,” says Wunderle. “He’s a good dude and a heck of a steel player. Anthony [Papaleo] is the best guitar player that I know. I feel silly asking him to play fiddle. They’re fans of my music – I had given them some older recordings. I wanted them guys playing on it. What I had in mind when writing the songs was that kind of orchestration.”
American Primitive, a label first started by Stambaugh and Wunderle in 2019 to document a crop of new guitar players and songwriters, will release the album.
“Austin and I started the label to release our own DIY stuff,” says Wunderle, “but we want to release similar artists and friends of ours too.”
While places like the Winchester and the Beachland — two of the local venues where Wunderle used to perform — are currently not hosting live music, Wunderle hopes to revisit them once the pandemic ends.
“It’s a total bummer,” he says of not being able to play live. “We’re just going to release the album and have it out there. I’m just doing odd jobs for right now, and I’ve been quarantined doing some writing and reading.”
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