The success of Luther Wright & the Wrongs' 2001 release Rebuild the Wall may have been something of a mixed blessing for the Canadian alt-country act. While it won them a great deal of press and radio attention, and exposed them to a brand-new audience, the album -- a semi-acoustic, bluegrass-influenced interpretation of the songs from Pink Floyd's The Wall -- also had novelty record written all over, no matter how skillful and imaginative the results may have been. For his follow-up, Wright has reasserted himself as a songwriter, and while Guitar Pickin' Martyrs has a few cuts played for a laugh, the wit is nearly always rueful. For all its high spirits and often energetic tempos, the album's dominant theme is a man stuck at the bottom of an emotional well in the wake of heartbreak. "Broken F*%?#@! Heart" wears its witty crankiness on its sleeve, but that doesn't dilute its genuine bitterness, and the more elegant heartbreak of "Land of Milk and Honey" and "Letting Go" mines an eloquent sadness that's real and affecting. The subtle but pin-sharp performances of Wright's backing musicians -- especially Burke Carroll on pedal steel and Megan Palmer on fiddle -- adds greatly to the album's strength. Coupled with Wright's songs, Guitar Pickin' Martyrs proves these folks have a lot more to offer than Pink Floyd covers, though it's an open question if as many people will fork over money to hear Wright and the Wrongs tell their own downbeat tales of dashed hopes and broken hearts.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming