By David Kenney
Luther Wright is a hillbilly after The Beverly Hillbillies’ Ma Clampett’s own heart.
Back home in Kingston, Ont., Wright is prepping his custom-made speed-machine for the first ever Luther Wright and the Wrongs Go-Kart Invitational. Set in a farmer’s field, the race will be laden with oil slicks, straw bales, local hosers and $184 in prize money. That’s right, $184.
"It’s from all the empties," snickers the Luther Wright and the Wrongs vocalist/guitarist. "It’s like The Wall, it’s the brainchild of the band."
The wall Wright mentions is the country band’s cover of Roger Waters’ Pink Floyd masterpiece album The Wall. Hold still though, this isn’t your parent’s pot-smoking, surrealistic trip. Wright and his Wrongs have done a unthinkable, almost laughable deed. They’ve rebuilt The Wall as a country album.
"What were we thinking, my God?" laughs Wright on the band’s Rebuild the Wall Pt. 1. "If you believe it works as a country album, then I’ll leave it at that."
It works all right. Live last Friday at The Night Gallery, a sparse crowd got their jig on to Pink Floyd classics churned through a rockabilly grinder. The desperation of "Mother" turns into a twangy, "uh, can you help me ma, can you help me please?" plea. "Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)" is transformed from it’s anti-education anthem to sounding like a couple of hooky-happy school boys.
"[The Wall] fits like an old pair of pants," Wright says. "It’s like we went to the Value Village of songs."
The bargain is in their delivery. Wright and co. try to keep a straight face on stage but it doesn’t last. Even the comatose ballad "Comfortably Numb" has Wright wobbling with floppy Gumby legs on stage, face locked in a smirk. In other venues the band has erected their own ‘wall’ using straw bales to set the mood. All of this comes with Waters’ blessing.
"The more I know about Roger Waters, the more surprised I am he lets us do it," says Wright on the reclusive musician.
Not everyone has bought the concept. Some reviewers have slagged the group’s somewhat schticky take. On the flipside, there’s the fist-pumping, head-bobbing Floyd fanatics who’ve littered venues like The Night Gallery.
"It ain’t a schtick, it’s too big," says Wright in defense of critics who’ve slagged the project. "We’re not interested in a Weird Al Yankovic career."
So far it’s been anything but. 1997’s Hurtin’ for Certain and 1999’s Roger’s Waltz update rockabilly for the Palm-age crowd. On the side, drummer Cam Giroux is a member of Weeping Tile with folk pop buzz queen Sarah Harmer. This summer sees the trio reuniting at the Winnepeg Folk Festival in-between each other’s own sets as well as the release of Rebuild the
Wall Pt. 2.
"We’ve had people say ‘You’re the only ones weird enough to pull this off,’" says Wright. "At this point we’re lifers."