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John Lincoln Wright keeps on ticking

By Joel Bernstein, November 1997

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Wright has had some other near misses. In 1980, Joe Sun - coming off a string of hits - covered "Lonesome Rainin' City" and "Pull Away From Your Man" on his third album, "Livin' On Honky Tonk Time." Neither cut was released as a single, and another Wright song Sun cut after moving to Elektra, "Lovin' In The Morning," went unreleased when Sun's career faded.Sun was popular in Europe. (He subsequently moved over there and continued to record.) So was Vernon Oxford, who cut "Lonesome Rainin' City" at around the same time Sun did. So was James Talley, who recorded four tracks with the Sour Mash Boys (co-produced by Wright) that were only released in Germany.

Wright would have seemed to be a natural to develop a European following of his own, except that he never went. "I never had the money" is his simple explanation.

Wright has made numerous trips to Nashville in the past 25 years, to pitch his songs as well as himself. But he never moved down there, a commitment Nashville increasingly demands of its suitors.

"I wasn't there. I wasn't in the loop," Wright admits, adding "I've always been a loner in this business. I'm not a schmoozer. The last time I went to Nashville for an extended period was 15 years ago. My last trip there was six years ago." Nothing happened either time.

Wright's recording career has also been hampered by a lack of funding.

Nonetheless, he has managed to get out four albums and a bunch of singles and EPs. The two CDs, "Honky Tonk Verite" and the acoustic, very personal, "That Old Mill" remain available. The vinyl is all long gone, although Wright hopes to get his first two albums pressed onto CD eventually. He also plans to put out a new album next year. "I've got the songs. It'll be an adult album, a personal one. There'll be some hard-core country, but it won't be geared to the honky-tonk market. "

The New England country music scene is much smaller than in the seventies. Not only is there no place in Boston featuring country regularly, but many outlying clubs around New England have also disappeared.

"There's no circuit anymore," says Wright, who makes do now with scattered club gigs and things like corporate parties and municipal celebrations.

"Bad luck and bad timing," Wright reflects on his long career. "I have disappointments. I'm struggling to make a living in diminished opportunities. I'm fundamentally a performer; I have to be on-stage. I've done it since I was a kid. But I have great satisfaction at what I've done professionally. I'm satisfied that I've learned what I do well. I regret I never took care of the business side of things - publishing, being more prolific as a songwriter, making regular albums."

"I'd still like to find a three-album deal with a good independent label. Someone who'd let me make an album a year I have a lot of new songs that I haven't hustled. I'm not a businessman, I'm a singer."

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