The American torch singers, road house musicians, rock ‘n’ rollers and bluegrass pickers of times past had no idea where their music would travel; in geography and through the pathways of the soul.
Norwegian country singer, Karin Wright, is a living example of the reality that music knows no boundaries in language, culture, country or genre. Her recent release, You Got the Silver, is a hybrid of country-western and bluegrass that runs with rock streams energizing this collection of pure American music.
Her earlier albums (2009’s Hunting a Dream and 2011’s Too Rock’n Roll For Country) demonstrate Wright to be a formidable alt-country-roots artist with a deep understanding of the soul of the song. Her second album, Too Country for Rock ’n Roll, speaks volumes just in the title. As it suggests, she moves boldly through the fine line between a variety if genres without compromising any of her stylistic recreations, which include rockabilly, alt-rock, rock ballads, country and bluegrass.
Her country influence is detectable on all of her albums, but nowhere do her credentials and talents shine so brightly as on You Got the Silver.
The opening track, the Rolling Stones classic originally sung by Keith Richards’ in his beautifully nasal rasp. But, Wright’s arrangement and performance intensifies the honky-tonk angel elements of the song turning the Stones guitarist’s country leanings into a fully realized exercise in the blues side of country. She carries the soul of the song into new territory.
The remaining 11 songs lean heavily on pure bluegrass instrumentation-the intricate mandolin and banjo work of Dale and Don Wayne Reno is alone worth the price of admission. The vocal harmonies soar with warmth and the beauty of a blend familiar to hills of Kentucky-however the sessions were recorded in Virginia. The music is anchored by the soulful and strong vocal presence of Karin Wright. She gives a solid footing to each song with a vocal style that is unique and engaging.
The cover songs, including faithful renderings of “Jealous Heart,” “Blue-eyed Darlin’” and “Salty Dog Blues,” keep the album’s center on bluegrass. But, it’s the originals on this collection that reveal the kind of art that resides in the music and songs of Karin Wright.
“Sandy,” a gentle, empathetic portrait of a Janis Joplin-like character who sacrifices all for her love for rock ‘n’roll as she raises her glass of bourbon to her world. But, it ends with a note of optimism, as the narrator thanks for her for paving the way to ‘let all the girls rock free.’ By the song’s end, in a near-anthem like declaration, it is clear that Sandy represents the women of rock. “True Believers,” speaks to the uncertainty of life today and the knowing that its music that will see us all through. “Like a Fading Rose,” is a stirring narrative on the bittersweet nature of aging as we learn to ‘settle for less,’ and seek out nurturing of embracing ‘all the little things in life.’ It is a poignant and profound moment in a song from an artist who always looks beneath the surface of things to emerge with lyrical gold.
As on her previous albums, Wright’s original songs reflect many of the hardships she has experienced in life. While her music and style comes from a variety of country music expressions, her strongest writing and vocal influence is the great American singer-songwriter and poet, Patti Smith.
According to Wright in a recent phone from her home in Norway, “Patti Smith disappeared from the music scene for some time and I thought she was never ever coming back... I had musical dreams in the eighties, all I wanted was to sing and become a rock star like her.” Wright further explained, “I relied on her to help me through the hard times I was going through and she did. I was lost I was insecure and I held on to her.”
As Wright grew into an in her own right, she would finally see Patti Smith in Oslo in 2006. Wright continued with her story;
“The third song she did that night was "Redondo Beach" a sad song about a girl who took her own life. Washed up on Redondo Beach. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. Tears were running down my cheeks as I watched Patti perform. It was like all the tension that I had been carrying through my life came out through my tears. I could see myself in that song and I was grateful that I was still around”
Moments like these require the artist to be receptive to the moment of the song. It is not easy to pay such close attention to the music and your own soul’s stirring. The result provided her with a new resolve.
“I want my music to define who I am, just like Patti. Be true to myself and communicate through my lyrics and my songs. What happened that night has never happened again. It's a once in a lifetime experience.... Moments like that are very rare, and I'm glad it happened”
If this was a turning point in the life of an artist, her new perspective is evident on her solo albums, which are full of fine lyrics, beautifully authentic music and an unusually insightful ability to craft a song.
Karin Wright’s story explains the depth in her voice and lyrics as she embraces American music in all its forms. On You Got the Silver,” she does this with abandon.