Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Numero
Genre(s): Soul, Singer/Songwriter, Progressive Folk, Folk Jazz
Wright, whose singing pipes can remind you of Lou Rawls, is captivating as a vocalist. In lesser hands, a vocalist with his sound might come across as boring, especially with the limited range that he sings with on this album. "Lady of the Year," a song that you might guess would be meant to woo, is instead a conversational pick-me-up, albeit laced with wistfulness, concerning a friend trying to cheer up another heartbroken friend.
In talking about a really good but largely forgotten record made 34 years ago by an obscure soul singer, it's tempting to paint a picture of strife and cruel fate, of a tragic figure unfairly overlooked in his heyday. Numero Group deserves credit for resisting this tried-and-true narrative in its attempt to introduce a wider audience to Willie Wright and his extremely appealing 1977 effort, Telling the Truth, the only all-original album he ever released. Instead, liner notes authors Ari Leichtman and Ken Shipley sketch a story of a musician who, despite a lack of commercial success, resolutely followed his own muse as an artist and his own whims as a man.
There are lost records, obscure cult favorites rescued from oblivion by heroic record labels and tenacious fan bases, and then there is something like Willie Wright’s Telling The Truth, where the very fact that anyone has the chance to hear it in 2011 is something of a minor miracle. Telling The Truth is an album whose origins might very well redefine the parameters of what we think constitutes “lost” or “obscure” in our current web environment, where every conceivable piece of music is available as long as you know where to search and have the right passwords or invites. Willie Wright’s backstory, told in elliptical fragments across the nearly barren pool of sources that exist on him, has the soulful crooner performing in dive bars and street corners for much of the ‘60s and ‘70s before finding work playing cover songs for the members of a private Nantucket yacht club.