Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get in, sit down, hang on

Rusty Wright Band, Playin' With Fire (Sadson Music, January 2009)

A long time ago that wasn't all that long ago, when Maxell made cassette tapes instead of burnable CDs, the company ran a print ad campaign that became an icon. Black and white and with minimal visual props, it showed a guy in shades sitting low in his chair, a martini set next to him and a stereo speaker in front of him as he was literally blown away by the awesome sound from that speaker.

That sort of comes close to the experience of listening to the Rusty Wright Band's new CD, Playin' With Fire, being released by the end of this month. Imagine a sonic suitcase filled with the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, Bonnie Raitt, and a little Fabulous Thunderbirds, shaken and stirred so that all of them become the foundation for a whole new sound to be built upon. Open the suitcase and then stand back, because that sound, its range, and the wallop it packs will blow you away.

RWB (from left): Eddie Lester, Dave Brahce, Rusty Wright,
Laurie LaCross-Wright, Andy Barancik, Pete Haist

The main feature on RWB's new disc, as the cover might indicate, is guitar virtuosity. The opening chords of both the title track and "What A Ride" will pin your ears back, while the emotional "Lost Souls" slows things down to offer a mix of Robin Trower-esque booming bass notes during intro and interludes and mellow jazz chords under the main verses. Combined with the warm breath of Dave Brahce's B-3 organ, Rusty Wright's leads on Fender and Gibson and Laurie LaCross-Wright's steady rhythm guitar carry every song on the new CD into new territory from the track before.

"It's a really mixed bag of stuff," Laurie says. "Most albums you hear today are so formulaic. You listen to the first song and you know exactly how the rest of the CD is going to sound. We hate that. While we were recording we talked a lot about the albums we grew up with and how labels used to give bands the freedom to experiment with songs and sounds. That's the vibe we aimed for."

The aim hit its target. In addition to the range of guitar styles and intensities, the new disc also glows with the quality of its varied vocal tracks, with Rusty's rich tenor and Laurie's velvet alto exchanging lead duties on some songs and harmonizing flawlessly on nearly all of them. Supporting the guitar and vocal artistry is a rock-solid rhythm section with Andy Barancik on bass and Pete Haist on drums, and on tracks like "Pretty Little Lies," RWB's own Clarence Clemons, southern blues veteran Eddie Lester, interjects saxophone riffs to bounce off more of Rusty's blazing guitar solos.

For half a second at the beginning of this disc's title song, there's the ominous sound of raw power humming through an amplifier before the song explodes into a roaring eight-note introduction. Although the track comes last on the CD, don't think of it as the finale; rather, consider it the beginning of a long and successful run by a band whose time to shine is now.

Previews of all songs on the disc are available here, and the band's blog is here. Catch them if you can, and mark your calendar for first thing in February to grab a copy of the new album.


Anonymous said...

It wasn't MEMOREX who made that poster, it was MAXELL. LMAO!

(I'm sure Memorex appreciates the nod, even though they'll never come close to such a brilliant ad!)

78rpm said...

LYAO over a brand name mixup? All M's tend to look alike to a brain that's underwater from a weeklong cold. ;)

Noted and fixed; thanks. Don't forget to listen to the samples over at the RWB site....