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Monday, July 09, 2018

ROUTES & BRANCHES 
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
July 8, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust


If Pixar is looking for a heartfelt ballad to launch their next movie over the top, they might want to check with Adam Wright about the selling price for "Born to Dream".  Inspired by his own children, the track might have been sweet-overload if it weren't so wise and beautiful.  Truth is, song after song this solo CD from one-half of The Wrights comes across as too good to be true.  Wright invests so much melodicism and genuine heart into his music and lyrics that, no matter your opinion about folk-leaning country, you're rooting for the guy as the album progresses.

Aside from his work with The Wrights, Adam has penned tracks for an army of Nashville luminaries, including Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack and more.  Wright served as cowriter and accompanist to Womack on last year's superb The Lonely the Lonesome & the Gone.  She returns the favor with a haunting duet on "From My Bough". Assuming the form of a traditional folksong, the song speaks achingly from the perspective of a tree that bends beneath the burden of having supported the bodies of lynchings:  Cut them loose and chop me down / And hang no more murder from my bough.  A similar foreboding holds sway over "Dark Life" as well, another song that grows around the figure of a tree.  The carefully constructed orchestration that groans and lurches recalls Joe Henry, as does Wright's capable delivery.

The title cut celebrates the gift of Wright as a lyricist, with a story about Money, Muscle and Mercy, three broken souls keeping one another afloat:  Like dust in the light / We fall and we fly / And we shine in spite of ourselves.  Wright's record speaks primarily in acoustic tones, with an occasional undertone of grit.  The abiding edge becomes more evident with repeated listening, partially hidden between the folds of these seemingly gentle songs.

"Ruby" rides in on a Southwestern vibe, recalling Townes Van Zandt in his earlier days, made all the more tragically lovely with a smattering of Espanol and some filigreed guitar:  She entered the saddle in the dust of El Paso / Fastened her lasso to the bull they call life.  In a somewhat similar vein, "Dirt Poor" drags things back closer to home, bumping along on the syncopations of a Western noir, an unflinching tale of abuse and revenge:  I used to think about Jesus / Tried to be more like he was / Turning the other cheek just got me another welt.  See also "Billy Get Your Bike", a chilling cautionary tale worthy of a Cormac McCarthy short story.

Even amidst these shadows, there's a warm beating heart to Dust.  The aforementioned "Born to Dream" is tame as a lullaby but shot through with wisdom:  There ain't a pie in the sky I ain't tried a slice of / A dream in a pipe I've passed up a puff of / And I've wished on every fallen star I've seen / There ain't a longshot I wouldn't bet it all on / And a whole lot of times it's gone all wrong / But oh well, I was born to dream.  "War of No One Cares" portrays the fleeting church encounter between a pair of life's survivors:  He settled in a couple rows behind her / And he breathed out all of his air / When he recognized the scars of a fellow purple heart / In the war of no one cares.  It's a masterful moment, with a light touch of strings adding to the crushingly melancholy spirit of the piece.  From his voice to his recognition of a melodically appropriate gesture, Wright recalls a more melancholy Ron Sexsmith.

Adam Wright has likened his songs to short stories, written in the voice and from the perspective of a character (or of flora, in a couple cases).   It's undeniably beautiful stuff, a fact that we shouldn't let temper our realization that the pieces also plumb the depths of our little lives  There is darkness and there are glints of light on a record that sings the praises of a writer who might have otherwise escaped the attention of folks like us always on the lookout for music that matters.

- Charles Lloyd & the Marvels, "Angel (feat. Lucinda Williams)" Vanished Gardens  (Blue Note, 18)
- Ruston Kelly, "Jericho" Dying Star  (Rounder, 18)
- Johnny Irion, "Cabin Fever" Driving Friend  (Irion, 18)
- Lera Lynn, "Nothin' to Do With Your Love (feat. JD McPherson)" Plays Well With Others  (Single Lock, 18)
- T Hardy Morris, "4 Days of Rain" Dude the Obscure  (Normaltown, 18)
- National Reserve, "New Love" Motel la Grange  (Ramseur, 18)
- Paul Cauthen, "My Cadillac" Have Mercy EP  (Lightning Rod, 18)
- Brothers Comatose, "Cedarwood Pines" Ink Dust & Luck  (AntiFragile, 18)
- Dead Horses, "American Poor" My Mother the Moon  (Dead Horses, 18)  D
- Tyler Childers, "Bottles & Bibles" Live on Red Barn Radio I & II  (Hickman Holler, 18)  D
- Rodney Crowell, "Lovin' All Night" Acoustic Classics  (RC1, 18)
- Austin Lucas, "Immortal Americans" Immortal Americans  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Brent Cowles, "Velvet Soul" How to Be Alone  (Dine Alone, 18)
- Laura Cantrell, "Churches Off the Interstate" Not the Tremblin' Kind  (Diesel Only, 00)
- David Nail & Well Ravens, "Heavy" single  (One Five Sound, 18)  D
- Nude Party, "Feels Alright" Nude Party  (New West, 18)
- Liz Cooper & the Stampede, "Hey Man" Window Flowers  (Sleepyhead, 18)
- Glossary, "Hold Me Down" How We Handle Our Midnights  (Young Buffalo, 03)
- Glorietta, "Heatstroke" Glorietta  (Nine Mile, 18)
- Lori McKenna, "Young and Angry Again" The Tree  (CN, 18)
^ Adam Wright, "Born to Dream" Dust  (Carnival, 18)
- John Fullbright, "I Only Pray at Night" From the Ground Up  (Blue Dirt, 12)
- Neko Case, "Sleep All Summer (feat. Eric Bachmann)" Hell-on  (Anti, 18)
- Jeffrey Foucault, "I Know You" Blood Brothers  (Tone Tree, 18)
- Milk Carton Kids, "Mourning in America" All the Things That I Did  (Anti, 18)
- Shannon Shaw, "Golden Frames" Shannon in Nashville  (Easy Eye, 18)
- Ana Egge, "White Tiger" White Tiger  (StorySound, 18)
- Carolina Story, "Lay Your Head Down" Lay Your Head Down  (Black River, 18)  D
- Gillian Welch, "One More Dollar" Revival  (Acony, 96)
- Damien Jurado, "I've Been Riding With the Ghost" Weary Engine Blues - North Star  (Graveface, 13)

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