The Rusty Wright Band – Hangin’ at the DeVille Lounge
12 tracks/58 minutes
Rusty Wright is a hot blues rocker who was born in Michigan but spent summers in Florence , Alabama, where his family had migrated to Michigan from. His music mixes influence of Motown, southern soul, and rock and roll. He moved to Florida about seven years ago to escape the cold winter darkness and the economic depression of Flint, Michigan. He left his band mates and basically started over. Rusty had become more and more depressed over things after having the band’s guitars stolen, the passing of his wife Laurie’s dad after a long illness that prevented them from touring, and the continued winter blight. Despite their musical successes, it was time for a change. This is their third release since moving and their eight overall, and it’s a well done album from top to bottom.
Rusty and Laurie spend a lot of time performing as a duo in south Florida. Their band here on the CD is Rusty on lead vocals and guitar, wife Laurie LaCross-Wright on rhythm guitar and harmony vocals, Billy Agner on bass guitar and harmony vocals, and Vail Hayes on drums. On “No Man is an Island” there is a different set of musicians as it was recorded earlier. Nic Allen is on bass and harmony vocals, Chris America is on drums and Dennis (Torpedo) Toerpe is on Hammond B3.
Before I get into the particulars, I first listened to the album song by song and scribbled down some notes for each song. Then I played it through as a normal listener would hear it. The first take was that there are many dark songs here. The opening monologue track tipped me off that this was a theme album. But the theme really plays out just by listening to it. More on that later…
The first track is a welcome to the DeVille Lounge; it’s spoken word by Rusty, the DeVille’s barkeep. Then it’s “House of Spirits,” a play on words as the ghostly spirits of the lounge speak to us about the boozy club. Wright howls out the slow blues lead on vocals and stings on guitar. They jive things up for “No One Cares At All,” a tune that swings and jumps. Wright adds a nice solo for us on guitar, too.
“Evil In Disguise” mixes rock anthem (with a sonorous guitar lead) and ballad into a cool cut showcasing Wright’s voice and axe work. He sings about his pretty girl who hides her true being behind her looks. “Devil Man” follows that with Wright singing with grit as he portrays what the title says. It’s a hard rocking cut. Next up is another anthemic song that runs almost eight minutes entitled “No Man Is An Island.” Wright’s tenor voice soars as he sings about loneliness and rejection. Some stratospheric guitar and nice organ licks add to the mix here.
“Going To Nola” is next, a fun and cool yet dark shuffle about traveling to the Crescent City. “Devil in the Details” follows that, a bouncy and driving song about the complications of life and love. “Trouble’s Always Knocking” is a pretty, slow blues that spends time developing as a great instrumental before Wright begins his lament about how problems always come a knocking at the door. All three of these cuts feature some fine guitar work.
“No Turning Back” gets a nice boogie going as Wright sings about keeping on keeping on in trying to win the love of his woman’s love. Another stinging solo on guitar is delivered here. The country tinged rocker “Burnin’ Precious Time”is next, a hard driving song. The pedal stays one the gas as the band moves into “Devil Music,” another heavy rocking tune. Wright sings about souls being taken as he wails on his guitar with controlled chaos. Wright warns the listener, “The Devil always get his due.”
This is dark stuff. Rusty often writes a lot of tongue and cheek stuff into his lyrics, but in his prior stuff that would have made the DeVille Lounge into a Disney-esque Haunted Mansion. That’s not where Wright took this one. The theme is dark; sinners are welcome and sinners are described throughout. Even the up tempo and somewhat positive “Goin’ To Nola” is about sinners doing their thing. Perhaps it is Rusty facing the dark side of life and what drove him to Florida. Perhaps it’s just a cool theme and thematic sort of album. Either way, I found this original set of tunes to be quite intriguing. And after all, what is the DeVille Lounge? The Devil-le’s Lounge!
All in all, this is a really interesting rock and blues rock album featuring Rusty Wright doing what he’s so good at. His guitar is on fire, his vocals are precise and controlled, and the songs are original and slick. The band is spot on. This is a winner and blues rock fans are going to gobble this one up for sure. Rusty hasn’t lost an ounce of energy or drive – he still delivers the goods!
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