by Ted S. McGregor, Jr.
I'm a sucker for a well-chosen cover song. When a favorite band reinterprets a classic from another group -- or, better yet, a forgotten gem -- I'm all ears. So when I heard there was a band coming through town that was known for covering not just a song, but an entire record, I took notice. When I found out the record is The Wall by Pink Floyd and the band is from Canada and supposedly plays bluegrass... well, it just doesn't get any weirder than that.
Apparently Luther Wright and his Wrongs started playing "Another Brick in the Wall" for laughs at concerts -- you know, "We don't need no education/We don't need no thought control." Out on the road, the gang would try to recall other songs from The Wall to pass the miles. Now it's a CD.
Pink Floyd's use of synthesizers for maximum tweakage has forever put it at the top of the list of bands that are cool to listen to with a laser light show. That's what places them as far away from bluegrass as they are from any other musical style.
It's worth taking a moment to discuss The Wall. For a band that made its fortune on lots of instruments and few lyrics, The Wall was a surprisingly coherent concept album. Roger Waters' primal scream at our cold, cruel world follows Pink, a rocker whose teachers, wife and mother all turned him into a suicidal mess by record's end. Like most concept albums, it's pretentious as hell. But it's also Waters' best work -- and the band's finest hour. With songs like "Mother," "Young Lust," "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell," it's practically a greatest hits package.
So it's somehow nostalgic to hear a plucky banjo part and a farmer barking out the title at the beginning of "Is There Anybody Out There?" Luther and Co. (really more of a crossover act than pure bluegrass) have made a lot of Floyd's dirge-like originals upbeat. Just try to keep your toe from tappin' along with the chorus to "Goodbye Blue Sky." And in "In the Flesh," when Pink turns fascist, "queers" are turned into "deer" by Wright and the Wrongs. Perhaps it's more bluegrass orthodoxy than political correctness, as later in the song, "Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?" becomes "Who let all of this wildlife into the room?" Nice touch.
Except for a couple tracks, Rebuild the Wall gets old after a few listens. Hey, it is a novelty item. Still, a well-chosen track -- say "Comfortably Numb" or "Another Brick in the Wall" -- would make a great addition to any mixed CD you plan to give to friends.