“I believe that for roots music to grow, and reach out to new audiences, we have to push it forward.” That is the premise for Wainwrights latest album, a musical blend of Americana, Blues and Roots melded together with his trademark boogie-woogie piano and fortified with his other keyboard skills. He also injects a little Latin flavour with hints of psychedelia and is noted for his wry and, sometimes humorous lyrics. Born into a musical family in Savannah, Georgia, and influenced by his father’s vocals and grandfather’s boogie-woogie piano, this background set him on the road to a life of music. In 2005, he released the solo debut, Piana’ From Savannah. He has also played in Southern Hospitality and partnered Stephen Dees in WildRoots.
This new release, Victor Wainwright and The Train, takes all of his influences and experience and presents a smorgasbord of styles all wrapped around his piano and gritty vocals, which tend toward a rich soulful edge.
Opening with Healing, his trademark keyboard runs are immediately thrown into the mix and horns expand the sound to good effect. The bass line on this is brilliantly complex and is a highlight. After a quiet passage, we are treated to a bit of guitar/Hammond interplay that is good fun. Latin flavours and horns combine to give the next track, Wiltshire Grave, a refreshing touch. A simple guitar pattern backed by coned trumpet and the lyrics give us the first taste of his lyrical storytelling. A clever, understated guitar solo is the best bit. Train is full-on boogie and brings pictures of Little Richard to mind. Dull Your Shine takes us into a slower staccato vocal over the muted piano and yet another brilliantly understated, but perfectly suited guitar solo. Next up is Money, with its barred chords through a wah-wah pedal and piano riff is a strange amalgam of Motown, Stax and Blues… it does work though. Thank You, Lucille, is a tribute to BB King and his precious guitar and it does reflect King’s style and song structures with rich vocals and a spoken piece paying respect to that special man and his guitar. Boogie Depression takes us back into boogie-woogie and is the least immediate of all the tracks as its progression is archetypal of the genre…still has you swaying. Everything I Need has an even stronger, slow Motown feel, due to the timbre of the vocal, and the gentle piano backing gives it an almost Wonder styling. Righteous has a tantalising piano introduction and builds slowly into a rapid-fire shuffle with almost all the instruments riffing on the main melody. I’ll Start Tomorrow could have been written for me! Wainwright tells the wry tale of how he will forever postpone his doctor’s advice on clean living as it’s too late to start today and to exercise or give up drinking and smoking…my feelings too. It’s another rapid shuffle with a sax solo to liven it up even further. Sunshine has an almost hidden psychedelic feel and a mellowness that suffuses the whole song and makes it a stand out track: a feeling that is helped by the guitar playing so reminiscent of Bonamassa on his India/Mountain Time performance. Final Track is the gospel-tinged That’s Love To Me which wraps it all up very neatly.
Wainwright has a really strong unit behind him and, although I am not sure quite where the baseball bat and knife appear in the running order, these guys are certainly masters of their respective instruments. A word of advice: I tried to find out what a belly tambourine is and ended up with 449,000 hits on belly dancing which left me none the wiser and my browser needing an urgent clear out!
“If you wanna boogie, get aboard this train”, opines Victor Wainwright. This is an album if you want to smile and have a good time. It’s not the Blues but there are 12 damn good tunes to keep you coming back for more.
Victor Wainwright and The Train – Victor Wainwright and The Train – RUF Records
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Wiltshire Grave
- Dull Your Shine
- Thank You Lucille
- Boogie Depression
- Everything I Need
- I’ll Start Tomorrow
- That’s Love To Me
Victor Wainwright – vocals, piano, B3, electric piano, mellotron (1), lapsteel (4), belly tambourine (10)
Billy Dean – drums, percussion, vocals (2, 5, 12), baseball bat (2), knife (2), bicycle bell (2)
Terrence Grayson – bass, vocals (2, 5, 12)
Pat Harrington – guitar, vocals (2, 5, 12)
Mark Earley – baritone & tenor sax (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11), flute (11)
Doug Woolverton – trumpet (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11)
Reba Russell - vocals (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Nick Black - vocals (1, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12)
Dave Gross – ambient guitar (2), baritone guitar (9), tambourine (8, 9, 10), percussion (2), thump (6)
Greg Gumpel - lead guitar (4), wah guitar (5), vocals (5)
Josh Roberts – lead guitar (9), rhythm guitar (7)
Monster Mike Welch – lead guitar (6)
Patricia Ann Dees – vocals (6)
Jeff Jensen – acoustic guitar (12)