Luther Wright and the Wrongs : Profession de foin
Hearts and Lonely Hunters
Hearts And Lonely Hunters
Five Questions with...Luther Wright
Wright Time for Kingston Native and the Wrongs
Luther Wright & the Wrongs 'Hearts and Lonely Hunters' CD review
Luther Wright's New Album Had a Split Personality
Hearts and Lonely Hunters
The Jack Grace Band with Luther Wright Live At The Acoustic Grill
Guitar Pickin' Martyrs
Bluegrass's New-Age Hootenanny
Climbing over the Wall
Sometimes, a band or an artist so successfully or so uniquely covers someone else's work that the cover song becomes an inherent part of their canon and is identified with them for the length of their career. In Luther Wright's case, though, it wasn't just a single song, but an entire album — a double LP, in fact. At the end of the 20th century, the affable former Weeping Tile guitarist made a startling discovery: Pink Floyd's The Wall was in fact, at its heart, a bluegrass album. Luther Wright and the Wrong's 2001 thesis, Rebuilding the Wall, conclusively hammered home the point. It was both ambitious and audacious, and it attracted a fair bit of attention.
"We went from obscure to relatively known — we shot up to vaguely recognized," Wright acknowledges with typical dry humour. "It doesn't seem to have held me back. Now, it's one of a bunch of records, but it doesn't really have a life expectancy, because it was already a cover of an album that was 20 years old. It comes around. It's rare that we pull out more than a couple of songs. There are so many harmonies and bits and instrumentation parts."
The radical reworking, a concept album about a concept album, got the thumbs up from both Pink and Floyd (OK, Roger Waters and David Gilmour); Bob Ezrin, the producer of the original Wall, sent Wright an enthusiastic email. Rebuilding the Wall was Wright's third album and there have been three more since, including last year's critically acclaimed The Man of Your Dreams, all furthering Wright's unique style, described by roots authority No Depression as "Tunes that split the difference between irreverence and country's traditions, a balancing act pulled off with panache." Wright counters: "I'm very happy being recognized for not being a complete smart-ass."
For the past five years or so, the Wrongs have become more of a fluid collective. "Once you're in, you're never out, so everybody that's ever played in the band still sort of plays from time to time," Wright explains while on his way to Guelph, for the first of a 26-show tour. This time out, he's touring with New York's Jack Grace Band, which, conveniently, doubles up as the new Wrongs. Wright and the band have been helping to grow each other's audiences on both sides of the border.
"We've been hooked up for a couple of years, booking each other back and forth," Wright says. "We're North-Americanizing the indie country roots."
By the time the bands hit Calgary, they should be hitting their stride, hosting the Ship jam in the afternoon and laying claim to the new Ironwood in the evening. Wright figures they have more than enough tunes to play three sets without repeating themselves this summer, he plans to head into the studio with The Jack Grace Band and whichever Wrongs are available to record his seventh disc, which will include covers of songs by his friends, like Carolyn Mark, Shuyler Jansen and Hank and Lilly. Still, Wright doesn't see any high concept in the immediate future.
"It was such a specific thing," he says. "It wasn't like, 'Let's do a concept record!' It was like, 'Hey, The Wall's a bluegrass record, we should do this,' and then we're such a bunch of cocky smart-asses, we talked about it and decided to make it a reality. I do like the idea of concept records and I actually consider my last couple albums somewhat conceptual, you know, the concept of heartache."
Would he ever consider another such mega-project?
"We're probably too lazy," he says. "It would have to be pretty inspiring. It's a lot of work."
Man Of Your Dreams
As one of the driving forces behind the annual cross-Canada Hootenanny tour, Wright has assembled this latest album in a similar fashion, drawing upon a host of Canadian roots talent like Dan and Jenny Whiteley, as well as his old Weeping Tile partner Sarah Harmer. Yet, unlike some of his previous solo outings, Man Of Your Dreams finds Wright concentrating on the emotional impact of the songs, rather than simply showing off his band’s bluegrass chops. The emphasis is clearly on heartbreak, and even if the message of the opening title track comes off as tongue-in-cheek, the exploration of the theme continuously gets deeper on “Things Twice” and “Wooden Dreams,” until by closing track “All The Glory” there’s a sense that some kind of love lesson has been proffered. Since the album itself only clocks in at 30 minutes, it’s an easy lesson to digest, and Wright’s typically unadorned, back porch production style adds a lot of homespun charm. Man Of Your Dreams may not provide the rough-edged roots rock that some fans of the genre expect, but it is an accurate reflection of the Hootenanny community that continues to grow each time out.
Man of Your Dreams
Man of Your Dreams
Friday On My Mind: Banjo Jim Is Everywhere
Luther Wright and the Wrongs
This is Luther Wright's second country CD. You might recognize him as that skinny guitar player in Weeping Tile. You might have heard his first CD, Hurtin' for Certain, which I thought was pretty weak, especially compared to this one. Hurtin just sounded like an incomplete and unmasterful attempt in a genre someone wasn't really familiar with. Like city folks doing country music. With one under their belt, mayhap some lessons been learned, cuz this one sounds full and rich and sincere. The band on both records has been some fine musicians, but on "Roger's Waltz" there's more room for everyone, some things are done just plain simple, and where there needs to be lots of layers of acoustic sounds it sounds like they hit the right marks. It isn't until the third song that we hear Sarah Harmer's clear and perfectly complimentary harmonies, which is really nice restraint. "Celia" is a fine country song. You'll find Luther's voice is warm and trusting, and his sad stories, like the title track, are finely wrenching. "Roger's Waltz" is a little like "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," which is fine company.
Luther Wright and the Wrongs (Snakeye Muzak)
– By Mitch Podolak
Hey there folks. Last weekend was the annual Wolfe Island Music Fest. The lineup was ridiculously good this year - so good that WIMF is giving Hillside a run for its money. And at a fraction of the price no less! With an added bonus of getting to ride on a ferry! Seriously mark your calendars for next year, it is that good. But, for the second year running I have been unable to attend the main day of fun. Stupid summertime obligations. As expected, all reviews that I have seen said this year's event was outstanding.
Knowing that I wouldn't be in the area on Saturday, I made sure that I got to see the Friday night Town Hall concert, the Hootenanny Revue. I missed the Hootenanny when it previously swung through town and I am very glad that I got to attend this time.
The Hootenanny is somewhat hard to explain. It is equal parts bluegrass, gospel revival, and cabaret, with a dash of indie rock. They call it Cowpunk, which I think is quite fantastic. I am not a fan of most country music, particularly what would be considered mainstream country, but I nevertheless like the type of music made by the Hootenanny All-stars. It is more "alt." than what I would consider most alt-country. It is much more bluegrassy. These folks aren't just adopting the sonic tools of bluegrass and traditional, olde-tyme country music as a novelty, however, they are the real deal. Everything we saw was authentic, passionate, and fun.
It was a revolving cast of exceptionally talented folks each taking turns at the mic and switching instruments as duty called. When not onstage they watched and danced right up front. There were five distinct performers/groups on the bill - Carolyn Mark, Luther Wright, Jenny Whiteley, Shuyler Jansen, and Salt- with a Dan Whiteley on mandolin and Diona Davies on fiddle, and Tolan McNeil on guitar, as well as a drummer, Michael Silverman. There was also a special guest appearance by Chris Brown and Kate Fenner. They backed each other up, sang harmonies and duets and by no means were they done once they sang their three or four songs in each set. Everyone brought something unique to the act whether they were the feature at the time or serving as backup.
The crowd was a very interesting mix of country fans, old folks, Wolfe Islanders, kids, and hipsters but I think it is safe to say that everyone was having a good time. They particularly liked the upbeat songs which lent themselves to dancing. The slower, softer numbers found many people's attention wandering. The people standing at the back were exceptionally chatty through pretty much the whole damn thing. I remain mystified why they didn't go just outside the hall where it was cooler, you could still hear the music and where the beer tent was located. At anyrate fun was had. At the end, after Jenny Whiteley sang "Circus is in Town" a capella as the others packed everything away (what was with that one chick in the audience screeching?), the Hootenanny All-Stars led a conga line out of the hall where fireworks were let off. Aside from my slight uneasiness out of fear that they might burn the church down (they did seem to be landing quite close) it was a pretty fantastic way to end the evening.
Wolfe Island was the last stop on the Revue's tour but I highly recommend you catch them if they roll through your town the next time the Hootenanny hits the road.
Guitar Pickin' Martyrs
Guitar Pickin' Martyrs
CD review - Guitar Pickin' Martyrs
Luther Wright has got some serious heart problems. While the literal—minded might see the Sacred Heart aflame on the cover of his latest album, Guitar Pickin‘ Martyrs,and think Wright and his backing band, the Wrongs, are suffering from heartburn, they‘d be wrong. And ignorant —— heartburn has nothing to do with one‘s heart. Ha. But I digress. Wright‘s problems are more along the lines of the metaphorical; namely, he‘s got a broken heart. Throughout Martyrs, Wright proves himself to be a fool for love, time and again having his heart raked over the coals. Sure, he gets wiser with every heartache, but he never learns his lesson.
It‘s all to the listeners‘ benefit, though. Wright can‘t be a guitar pickin‘ martyr, singing songs about heartbreak, if he knows nothing of the topic. Song titles alone —— “Broken Fuckin‘ Heart“, “I‘m Not Okay“, and “Not Feeling Fine“ —— should be proof enough that Wright‘s an authority on love gone wrong, but he and his band drape their songs in plaintive steel guitar, banjo, and fiddle. Even if English is Greek to you, the Wrongs just sound like hopeless romantics.
But if you understand English —— and the odds are pretty good, since you‘re reading this —— then Guitar Pickin‘ Martyrs reveals even more delicate lyrical treats. Some are a little too sweet: The barroom swing of “Devious Dissembler“ nearly gets derailed by the titular character‘s “Bishop Desmond Tutu curly hair“ (granted, a keen observation, but: Huh?) and five—dollar words like “subservience“ and “clandestine“ fall thickly off Wright‘s tongue. Fortunately, despite (or because of) Wright‘s unpretentious (read: plain) voice, most words and phrases drip from his mouth like warm honey. “I get a hard—on or cry at the drop of a hat“, he notes on “Not Feeling Fine“. Even though the man‘s heart hurts like hell, Wright‘s still got a sharp sense of humor —— like a true romantic.
Elsewhere, Wright‘s keen wit shine through: “If looks could really kill then I‘d be dead / You‘d be in jail behind bars making license plates for cars“ he tells an ex—lover on the newgrassy “Broken Fuckin‘ Heart“ (ain‘t that the worst kind?) and on “Darlin‘“, Wright‘s lovesick narrator recognizes that even if his girlfriend who treats him like shit “stand[s] me up / I‘m still ahead of all the chumps you never knew and that‘s the truth“. Wright‘s characters all realize that they are powerless in the face of love, no matter how wrong it is, and they might as well roll with the punches. And just to make sure there‘s no confusion over Wright‘s theory that we can‘t control who we fall in love with, Guitar Pickin‘ Martyrs‘ liner notes feature cheesy clip art drawings of Cupid —— the real culprit in all this lovely mess.
Of course, an album called Guitar Pickin‘ Martyrs has its fair share of nifty guitar work, and I‘d be remiss if I didn‘t mention it. Dan Curtis, a triple threat on electric guitar, lap steel, and banjo, gets most of the deserved accolades, though Chris Quinn‘s banjo solo on “My Heart, My Heart“ gets my vote for the album‘s best. Wright must hate to be lonely, because there are 13 musicians credited in Martyrs‘ liner notes, but there‘s not a wasted note from any of them. Hell, there‘s even a guy (Spencer Evans) playing clarinet on “Darlin‘“.
An album with a title like Guitar Pickin‘ Martyrs arrives on shelves with a built—in audience, but anybody who has had a broken heart (and likes to revel in the misery of brokenheartedness) will find something to relate to on Martyrs. And those who first learned of Wright from his Pink Floyd re—imagination, Rebuilding the Wall, will be pleased to see that Wright is more than just a one—trick pony. If you‘re one of the lucky (?) few to be spared heartache, then enjoy the rocking tunes. Or, in Wright‘s terms, from “Race to the Top“: “That hillbilly music... you don‘t hear on the radio“.
CD review - Guitar Pickin' Martyrs
I love the title of this CD, and I love this band.
Most of the work here is original and has that lovely, fresh feeling of not being over—influenced by any awe of the past masters. The opening track, “Wish Me Well,“ sets the tone and we go on an upward curve from there.
I particularly like the writing on “Devious Dissembler.“ Can you not love a title like that? The pace is steadied for “Land of Milk and Honey“ and shows that the Wrongs can deliver a beautiful ballad with the best of them. Maybe it‘s the influence of Sarah Harmer. She also joins Luther on vocal for “Race to the Top,“ where the old—time yodelling brings back a bygone age.
The old time country stars would never have released the next track —— purely because it would never get airplay. “Broken F****** Heart“ is an excellent song and can be very realistic but I doubt if it will be heard on many radio sets even in 2004. This is a pity because there is great rhythm and inspired lyrics.
There are any number of strong pieces on this album. They are strong in the sense of top—class compositions, but also in that some of the lyrics may require parental advisory notices.
Another heart song, “My Heart, My Heart,“ has the potential to be a great single hit. It gets your feet tapping and heart pounding, as a good hillbilly track should. In the old days of single releases, the ideal b—side to the single would have been “Darlin‘“ —— even if the lyrics were a bit risque on close listening.
There is one cover version here and it is well worth it. Hold on to your hat and play track 12 at full volume, “It‘s Mighty Dark to Travel.“ The final track, “The Settling Dust,“ is another fine contribution and is well worth giving your attention to.
I enjoyed this CD immensely; there is some great writing and playing featured and I hope that many more people manage to hear this work. The insert with lyrics is very good.
CD review - Guitar Pickin' Martyrs
Anyone who likes every other banjo—heavy, alt—nouveau country act that gets college radio air time will like Martyrs. Those who only like the Wrongs‘ bluegrass remake of Pink Floyd‘s The Wall — with its unique ability reconcile both nostalgic remembrance of that first bong hit as a thirteen—year—old with a newfound hipster love of Johnny Cash — will surely feel this album falls short. And those out there who thought that Rebuilding the Wall could really have use more Earl Scruggs—style hard—core banjo pickin‘ will feel equally cheated.
But somewhere in the between those two extremes lies the perfect audience for this album. Its well—produced and easy listening melodies are sure to be a hit for the cheap beer, back porch crowd, as well as the “I‘m just getting into this hillbilly music“ bunch. Martyrs is about as user friendly as an alternative contemporary country album can get, and these guys seem like they would make great drinking buddies, but let not the album title fool you — no guitars or banjos were hurt during production.