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Brian Wright

House on Fire – 2011 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Brian Wright

Los Angeles via Waco singer/songwriter Brian Wright describes his sound as somewhere between Woody Guthrie and the Velvet Underground, and his latest release displays that level of versatility with its mix of country, blues, pop and rock.

The Woody Guthrie influence is most evident on the country blues of Mesothelioma, which observes the devastation of not only the title affliction, but also cancer and emphysema ("I hope that if you get a disease/ You get the medicine that you need"). Similarly Rich Man's Blues employs dark humor ("I don't wanna die in the cold coal mine/Break my back in the hot sunshine/Dig my grave with a rusty old dime/I don't need a dime that bad").

Tracks such as Live Again, Mean Old Wind and Pretty Little Pennies are more in the mode of Guy Clark or Steve Earle. One of the stronger country tracks is Maria Sugarcane, musically reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt while its tale of love, betrayal and murder also recalls Johnny Cash.

Wright is equally at ease with pop and rock composition. Striking Matches and The Good Dr have a '60s rock sound that not only have a touch of Velvet Underground, but a bit of Paul Simon. If You Stay and Had Enough display the lyrical quality of Harry Nilsson, the latter with a reggae feel.

The album ends with the effective ballad Friend ("With a thousand miles behind you/ And a thousand more to go/When the hurt only reminds you how far you are from home/ When this drifters heart that binds you leaves you stuck out in the road/ I'll be your friend").

With the diversity of brilliant tunes and strong performances this effort has both alt.-country and adult alternative appeal.