John Lincoln Wright and the Sourmash Boys
Way back when, John Lincoln Wright and the Sour Mash Boys put out an interesting little four-song, seven inch, 33 1/3 RPM vinyl extended-play record with two decent originals, including the nifty "Wrong Place, Wrong Time Again." It's the earliest of Wright's records in my collection, not counting the ones he made in the 1960s with the Beacon Street Union. A few years later, a terrific in-concert version of "Wrong Time Again" appeared on the album, S.R.O.: Recorded Live! at Jonathan Swift's. The next record, if I remember right, was "The Red Sox Song," which was released under the name, Pine Tree John and the Designated Hitters. Then came the LP, Takin' Old Route One. A strong case could be made that "Nothin' But the Rain," a single from that album, is the best one ever released by a New England country artist. A little later, "Gotta Get Back There," another fine track from the LP, was released as a single. About this time, Boston was developing a substantial country-rock scene. There was Chuck McDermott and Wheatstraw, the Estes Boys, Sleepy La Beef, Tina Welch, and--a little later, I think--an excellent band called Cabin Fever. And if you were looking for someone to blame for creating such an interest in country music in Boston, you would need to look no further than John Lincoln Wright. He came out with another excellent single, "Lovin' in the Morning" backed with a rockin' "When the Party's Over." (His voice seems best suited for rockers.) It was a heady time in Wright's career, and it seemed that the country music establishment could no longer ignore him. But somehow it did. John Lincoln Wright couldn't seem to catch a break. Perhaps "Wrong Place, Wrong Time Again" was proving to be prophetic. Wright once told D. C. Denison of the Boston Globe: "I've been independent and stubborn for most of my career." Five years later he told Daniel Gewertz of the Boston Phoenix: "I've never had a real manager or agent. My whole career has been off of this kitchen table. My publishing contracts are in that box on the floor." This do-it-yourself approach, this independent attitude, may have cost Wright a shot at the big time; but it's one of his most attractive qualities and may be a prime reason why his core fans appreciate him in the first place. Wright came back with his most consistent album, the fan-financed You Can't Get There from Here. Two of the songs--"Rockabilly Man" and "They Tore Down the Hillbilly Ranch"--are John Lincoln Wright classics. Another of my own favorites is "I'll Make It on My Own." The notes on the jacket are by the great baseball writer, Peter Gammons. That should have made this album a hit all by itself. That Old Mill, a strong acoustic CD, was a real departure for Wright. If we may judge from reports in the Boston press, evidently some long-time fans thought the record was a little too folky. Be that as it may, it is a solid collection of new songs, mostly composed by the singer, himself. "The Same Old Wind" comes in three parts, starting and ending the album and serving, too, as its centerpiece. It is one of the highlights of the disc, along with another of Wright's best songs, the remarkable "Wild and High." The technical staff did a fine job; and Wright's voice is reproduced more clearly here than on other records. His singing is further enhanced by this record's spare instrumental accompaniment. The notes on the jewel box are by Peter Wolf. Honky Tonk Verite put Wright back in front of an electric band. This album has a sound that's a little like a demo, giving it a "live" quality that has its own charm. A few old favorites are mixed in among the new songs. "The Blues Come Down" is a tribute to Hank Williams and the Driftin' Cowboys, whether it's intended to be or not. Favorites include "Too Old To Die Young Now," "And When I Go," and the vintage "Rockabilly Man." Over the years, John Lincoln Wright has written a number of very fine songs. Most of those mentioned here are J.L.W. originals. Yet as far as I know, rock bands and country artists have not been quick to cover them. I wonder why that is? Singers, you're overlooking an important source of material. Maybe we need a BoTown Does it Wright compilation.
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