ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 5, 2001
Luther Wright was 12 or so years old when he first heard Pink Floyd’s The Wall, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago, while touring with his band Weeping Tile, that he realized the 1979 classic-rock staple was actually a country-bluegrass album in disguise.
“It came to us in a flash,” explains Wright from his home in Kingston, Ontario. “The Wall came on the radio and I just started playing along with it on the little van acoustic guitar: ding-dicka-dingding-ding-dicka-dingding. We started to laugh and go, ‘Great country tune!’ And by the time we hit ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ it was like, ‘Oh my god, these are all great country tunes!’ Then we went through every song on the record, and realized that the whole damn album is like this hidden country record.”
Not so hidden anymore, though, as Luther Wright & the Wrongs have just released Rebuild the Wall Pt. 1, which sees Roger Waters’s heavy tales of doubt and oppression taken out behind the barn for a good ol’ country-style fixin’, with banjos, fiddles, and pedal-steel guitars at the fore. After that initial revelation on the road, the band only joked about tearing down The Wall and rebuilding it with straw bales, but the idea always drew extreme responses from people—some felt it was brilliant, others gagged at the thought.
Ignoring the naysayers, LW&TW produced their own 13-track version of The Wall, but before they released it they contacted Waters’s management, seeking his approval of the cover versions. “I wrote a letter saying, you know, ‘Dear Mr. Waters, we so respect you and your music, and your songs are so great, and they work perfect with the kind of music that we play.’ You know, it’s perfect country material—it’s about loss and suffering. It’s about his wife leaving him.”
Fortunately for Wright—whose band plays the Railway Club on Wednesday (April 11)—Waters gave the project an enthusiastic thumbs-up. If he hadn’t, there would have been a dark cloud over the proceedings. “We would have been bummed out,” notes Wright, “because we’re songwriters too, and—even though we’re not in his league—there’s a karmic sorta… I mean, the repercussions of covering someone’s record [without permission]—especially something that’s heartfelt, and very personal—are such that I don’t think we could have put it out.”
Wright doesn’t expect Rebuild the Wall Pt. 1 to spark a trend of historic rock albums being given the roots treatment; he certainly won’t be following it up with rustic remakes of Quadrophenia and The White Album. Nor has he ever wondered which classic country albums might benefit from a guitar-rock makeover. “You know, that’s a job for Treble Charger, or maybe 54•40. No—the Tea Party, that’s the band. Maybe the Tea Party should reinterpret Hank Williams’s greatest hits. That’s my challenge.”