Heresy or Genius?

On Canada's hottest bluegrass band.

Canada's most happening bluegrass band, Luther Wright & the Wrongs, plays original old-school country and western music with verve and sass. The group's live performances are frothy, frenzied affairs with the Wrongs' pilot, singer/guitarist Luther Wright, routinely guiding his trusty crew (Sean Kelly on bass and vocals, Dan Curtis on guitar and vocals and Cam Giroux on drums and vocals) into potentially treacherous territory with gleeful abandon -- all in the name of entertainment. You'll get a chance to verify this claim Saturday night at Fat Tuesday's Concert Hall as the Wrongs take the stage. Two local acts, the Occasional String Band and the South Hill Ramblers, open the show.

In light of Luther Wright and the Wrongs' reputation for good old-fashioned insolence, it's fitting, I suppose, that, although the group predominantly performs and records its own tunes, its greatest claim to fame is a recent countrified reworking of The Wall. That's right, a complete, song-for-song bluegrass version of Pink Floyd's venerable prog rock opus.

Now hold on a minute -- that's not as sick and twisted as it might seem. Before all you crusty Floyd purists have an aneurysm over the mere thought of a relatively small-time Kingston, Ontario, bluegrass band having its way with what you consider to be rock's holy grail, stop, take a deep breath and instruct yourself to get over it. First of all, such grandiose and self-indulgent artistic statements as The Wall are always fair game for parody. But second, and most astonishingly, the Wrong's version (entitled Rebuild the Wall on Back Door Records) is no joke. It is, if not overly reverent, certainly respectful of the original work. Furthermore, The Wall's underlying themes (alienation, self-destruction and madness) have always been the fundamental elements of true country and Appalachian music. Right? So you see, bluegrass and Floyd aren't such strange bedfellows after all.

Luther Wright and the Wrongs have been brewing buzz across Canada since its album debut, Hurtin' For Certain and its follow up, Roger's Waltz introduced the world to Wright's spirited neo-traditional country/folk grooves and bittersweet songwriting style. But for good or ill, the clamor on this side of the border didn't really kick in until Rebuild the Wall hit the streets.

Wright himself downplays the gimmick angle of the record, claiming it was the result of inspiration, not calculation.

"It started innocently enough on tour a ways back," he explains. "Luther Wright was doing 'play along with the radio' in the van when the legendary Pink Floyd hit. 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 1' came on the airwaves in its full, rock glory. Well, that started a full-on hillbilly rendition-fest of every Wall tune we could remember."

After an abbreviated version of the album (Rebuild the Wall, Pt. 1) caused a furor among fans and critics, the group decided to re-release its banjo, fiddle and pedal steel Floyd treatment in its magnificent, 26-track entirety.

"Looking back, there is no doubt that we were meant to do this," says Wright. "I mean just for the record, we cover very few songs and that's simply because it's often hard for us to pull it off. Strange that we should come across 26 songs that defied that rule."

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