Let’s make it perfectly clear from the outset. This is a bluegrass album from a very traditional bluegrass artist. It’s been a while since bluegrass has featured on country radio and we do not have the opportunity of hearing traditional bluegrass too much here in the UK.
It wouldn’t normally be an album that we would consider reviewing but it appears here for one reason – It’s very good.
Curtis Wright has been active on the US bluegrass scene for many a year. He was a member of Shenandoah, co-wrote their big hit song ‘Next to You Next to Me’ back in 1990 and has worked with Pure Prairie League for 6 years.
He has also had a stint working in Reba McEntire’s band and has developed a reputation in the industry as a fine vocalist and a quality multi-instrumentalist.
You won’t hear any instruments that require a plug socket on this album. It’s traditional fiddles, banjos, slides and acoustic guitars all the way and it’s all the better for it. Slick production has its place but here it’s about the melodies and the songs.
From the opening bars of ‘Going through Carolina’ we were hooked. It’s a song that tells the emotions experienced by a trucker driving through Carolina and it’s based on Wright’s own memories as he has himself driven an 18 wheeler in a previous life. Occasionally you hear a song that has a hook so familiar that you convince yourself that it must be a cover. This was the case here but it’s a song that Wright has co-written with Jerry Salley and appears for the first time here.
He describes his voice as “whiskey seasoned” and the songs here as “back porch hymns”, particularly ‘I Will Someday’ which is co-written by Chris Stapleton.
There are a number of songwriters who contributed to this album but Wright’s own contribution shouldn’t be overlooked. ‘Mama Prayed For Me’ sums up what country music is all about. A song that tells a story with a very personal message.
He penned this song in 2011 but only recorded it at the beginning of the year shortly after his mother had passed away. It’s a great tribute to her and a highlight amongst many on an album that improves with every listen.
Whilst Wright’s songs and vocal style takes you on a very personal journey, it’s not all poignant and melancholy. ‘Tunnel Tunnel’ is a hillbilly tale of a prison break delivered very tongue-in-cheek.
‘Stormy Weather’ has a foot tapping rhythm, superb banjo and fiddle backing and features lyrics that describe a typical British weekend!
We don’t have too many back porches or an endless supply of steamy nights here in the UK. We will have to rely on the images that this album inspires to get our fill of “Dixie”.
Sometimes it’s very rewarding to go off the beaten track when discovering music. This is definitely worth a listen.