By Rhetta Ajamatsu
Having established himself firmly in the last few years as a multiple-award winning piano player and entertainer, Victor Wainwright is making some changes. He has a new band, The Train, a new record label, Ruf and a new album, simply called Victor Wainwright and The Train, coming out March 9. I got an early listen and it’s amazing.
As Victor says on the song “The Train”: “If you wanna boogie get aboard this train/Get yourself a ticket or get out of the way.” With these 12 original songs, this train is going exactly where Wainwright wants it to go, with stops at traditional, rock, ballads, his signature boogie, and even a side trip into psychedelia!
It all begins with that pounding piano as Wainwright starts us off with “Healing,” a soul extravaganza with horns, organ, piano, and passionate vocals. Next is the new Orleans-flavored tale of poor Peggy and the”Wiltshire Bridge.
This is one of the songs that plays down the piano for the vocals and the organ and horns.
Then here comes the train. This one is going to pick you up and sweep you away! After Victor exhorts the band to get the train started, It goes faster and faster until it hits that ferocious piano and then ends with the horns. Whew! Wipe your forehead and get ready to switch gears for “Dull Your Shine,” with its message that ‘those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter, they don’t mind.” This one features a poignant guitar solo as well as more restrained piano and a persistent drum beat to underscore the uplifting message.
“Money” is a sly, funny soul shuffle with a message we will all recognize. It is followed by a moving and heartfelt tribute to Lucille, BB King’s guitar. It is a highlight of the album and is likely to get a lot of play on blues radio.
“Boogie Depression” is a fast boogie about the power of music to cure depression, with some real piano pyrotechnics to remind you that the man is a piano playing genius. Then the mood slows down for the slow, sweet love song, “Everything I Need.”
Switching moods again, “Righteous” is a spooky song about “righteous” anger. Listen closely and you will get a chill. “I’ll Start Tomorrow” comes as a relief, with its funny message about procrastination.
It is followed by the entirely different, Eastern-influenced and psychedelic “Sunshine,” which features guitar, horns, and drums and a short, plaintive vocal. It really allows the band to show off their skills, and Wainwright to show that an organ can be psychedelic. Then the album ends with another sweet, slow ballad, “That’s Love To Me” It is a huge compliment in my mind that these slow songs remind me of the great Leon Russell, while still being completely Victor’s own.
Wainwright and The Train take us on one amazing journey here, with still some astounding piano but a whole lot more besides, showing that Wainwright can break out in all sorts of wonderful directions. Be prepared to jump on board, it’s coming your way soon!
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