While there are many artists who can be easily categorized, there are but a few that cannot be confined to one particular definition.
Include in that latter group the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, artists who cannot possibly fit into a singular musical box. Not many of today's singer-songwriters share Springsteen and Young's audacity. Brian Wright is an exception. He is willing and ready to burn down the status quo.
When taking some time off after several tireless years on the road with his band, The Waco Tragedies, Texan Brian Wright saw an opportunity he could not pass up.
His previous two albums, 2006's "Dog Ears" and 2007's "Bluebird," were both recorded in a span of three days with a live band. For his new project, Wright sought a more relaxed, self-reliant approach, involving Wright playing nearly every instrument.
The result is the adventurous "House on Fire," which Wright released independently in February 2010. The album caught the ears at Sugar Hill Records and is being re-released through the label on March 29.
"House on Fire" is heralded as a collection of "14 songs on the subjects of love and arson." Though love and fire are the re-occurring themes, Wright covers a variety of topics on "House on Fire," including work, music and death. Aside from the declaration of the subject manner, with one listen of "House on Fire," it is clear that Wright put incredible thought and labor into what he would present to his public.
"I usually say I'm somewhere between Woody Guthrie and Velvet Underground," Wright says of his sound.
A combination of interesting verse and styles, "House on Fire" allowed him to make music exactly the way it was in his head. From folk and Americana to black gospel and blues and rock, Wright has no shortage of fire-starters to use in burning a unique imprint on his listener.
The songs within the "House on Fire" have varying degrees of heat. On the lower end are the airy "Mean Ol' Wind" and tender "Live Again." Wright turns it up on the bluesy "If You Stay" and fun "The Good Dr." Album-opener "Striking Matches" and the lengthy "Accordion" are just plain intense.
As far as the songwriting itself, without a doubt, the highest point comes with "Maria Sugarcane."
Wright spins a tale of a love triangle between himself, his brother and the song's namesake. An innocent childhood love evolves into an abusive relationship between the brother and Maria. It abruptly ends when the narrator murders his sibling and eventually marries Maria. This is yet another point where Wright meets the Springsteen/Young criteria.
While Wright performed most of the album, the few invited guests provide numerous musical charms. The angelic vocal accompaniments from Sally Jaye, Rhonda Bennett and Jamie Drake do not go without notice, and the bass singers on "If You Stay" are strange but hilarious. The best use Wright gets out the added instrumentation comes in "Still Got You." The booming saxophones make it one of the most powerful songs on the album.
The packaging for the re-release for Brian Wright's "House on Fire" takes on the form of a billboard for an old-timey medicine show, presenting the work as "the universal domestic musical medicine." It jokingly proclaims "the health of thousands of families is preserved from year to year in the use of Dr. Wright's remedies alone!"
Like a medicine show, "House on Fire" is an oddity, but it could very well be the elixir for those with a fire in the belly for exemplary, but out-of-the-ordinary songwriting.
Brian Wright is online at http://www.brianwrightmusic.com.