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Rusty Wright Band - Playin’ With Fire

Sadson Music

10 songs; Time 48:16; Suggested

Style: Southern Blues Rock; Southern Rock

I miss good ole blues based Southern Rock. I was in my 20s during the 1970s, and we listened to such great music – starting with the Allman Brothers. Then, 38 Years ago, Duane Allman died. Along came Lynyrd Skynyrd and all was well, but 32 years ago, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s airplane crashed killing Ronnie Van Zant and other band members. Yep, the golden age of Southern Rock came and went with bands like The Outlaws, Capricorn Records era Elvin Bishop, and Molly Hatchet. Some bands are still around like the Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band, and .38 Special, but they reached their zenith back then. By the early 1980s, it had sadly petered out.

The Rusty Wright Band from Flint, Michigan has recaptured that muse and spirit from the classic Southern Blues Rock bands. They also refer to early 80s Stevie Ray Vaughan; but, rather than retread the old deep grooves that have become ruts, they are moving the music along nicely in the 21 century. You will definitely enjoy their slide guitar and familiar refrains, riffs, and hooks lifted from the classics, but for anyone born after 1990 and unfamiliar with those earlier acts, it will sound like ground breaking music. Check them out, because after three short years, they are right now on fire!

Like a phoenix rising from fiery ashes of the 1970s bands, a guitar wielding dragon on the cover of the second CD from the Rusty Wright Band symbolizes the essence of this group: listening, learning, wood-shedding, blending, and taking the music on up the road, with harmony, style, energy, and fun. In less than three years, this act has jumped from a regional favorite to performing at some of North America's top blues festivals.

“Playin' With Fire” takes listeners on a tour of joyful, blues-infused, radio-ready Americana with Motor City flair and attitude. Tastes of jazz, rock, country and even gospel find their way into the music of this six-piece "energized blues storm."

Fronting the band with Wright is his wife, vocalist/guitarist Laurie LaCross-Wright. Beyond the guitar fun, the real strength of this CD is their singing. They harmonize beautifully, trade vocals on verses, and alternate lead vocals. Rusty sings in a rich tenor and Laurie's ear pleasing alto completes a match that makes this album a winner! Rounding out the ensemble is a rock-solid rhythm section with Andy Barancik on bass and Pete Haist on drums, Dave Brahce adds B-3 organ, keyboards, and guitar, and Eddie Lester is credited with saxophone and percussion.

The first song, “World Upside Down,” gives the listener a nice introduction to the album, but there are surprises to come. It opens with Wright and partners’ guitars harmonically channeling SRV, and from his first notes, the song crackles with dynamic energy. But, that is just the beginning; by 1:12 into the song, soaring Hammond B3 organ takes a tasty solo. Meanwhile, Rusty and Laurie have been trading vocal verses about lovers who are “crazy, lazy, and lost” but with such redeeming qualities that they turn “my world upside down.”

Following that rollicking opening song, Track two opens with some ear grabbing slide guitar soon followed by two fisted piano reminiscent of Skynyrd’s Billy Powell. Southern blues veteran Eddie Lester, adds a saxophone solo and then bounces off more of Rusty's guitar solos. Before it is over, Pat Travers runs are heard during twin lead guitar harmonies. At this point, as one’s speakers are smoking, the seasoned listeners realize they have just come across a monster of a band playing old, yet new, music.

Proving they are no one trick pony, track three carries the new CD into new territory from the first two. "Lost Souls" is a slow emotional mix of piercing guitar and booming bass notes during the intro soon followed by more mellow organ tones and shimmering jazz chords. The tale of “Lost Souls” is punctuated throughout the 6:28 minutes with welling power and complementing guitar solos.

Track four’s focus on smooth vocals again shows the complexity of interests the band brought to the recording. And, speaking of vocal focus, track five, “Make a Liar Out of Me,” will absolutely capture hearts.

The twin harmony lead guitars on cut six nicely set up the fun story of the “Last Days of Whitey Malone” and his mis-adventures at the “head cutters ball.”

While the opening chords of both the up tempo “Playin’ With Fire” and "What A Ride" will nail you to your seat, “A Change in the Weather” will kill fans of Southern Rock slide guitar. This song was the first cut from the CD that I heard on the radio and the first one I played on my own radio show. One passage reflects the exciting call and response heard on the original Allman Brothers’ version of “One Way Out.”

Get this CD and play it for friends both young and older. I guarantee they will be inquiring, “Who is this?” within any three songs!

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL
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