- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

It begins with a few rakes at a mandolin and intermittent wisps of acoustic guitar. Next come the whoosh of a snare-drum shuffle, a thumping bass line and the bounce of a jew's-harp. Luther Wright & the Wrongs are in full swing.
Then comes the kicker, the nihilistic, bummed-out lyrics of Roger Waters:
All in all, it was just a brick in the wall. All in all, it was all just bricks in the wall Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb? We don't need no education.
Yes, it's "The Wall," 1979's progressive-rock masterpiece by Pink Floyd, done Americana style.
Luther Wright & the Wrongs, an Ontario-based quartet performing tomorrow night at Jammin' Java in Vienna, have refashioned the famous cycle of rock-psychedelia with traditional country-Western instrumentation fiddle, banjo, steel guitars and twangy vocals.
Appropriately dubbed "Rebuild the Wall," the album was released in the United States about a year ago.
"It just seemed like it was ripe for the pickin'," Mr. Wright says via cell phone as his band's tour bus nears the Canadian-U.S. border in upstate New York.
The band took the concept to its full, literal length. The cover of "The Wall" is a minimalistic depiction of a whitewashed brick wall; for "Rebuild," there's a tall stack of hay instead.
Mr. Wright says the project started on a lark one day when he and his band mates including Sean Kelly on bass, Dan Curtis on guitar and Cam Giroux on drums started playing along with Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" on the radio.
According to Mr. Wright, the songs translated surprisingly easily into the country-Western idiom. All the band had to do was peel off the layers of studio atmospherics and strip the tunes to their germinal core.
"We play it like we play our own stuff," he says. The musicians are mixing an album of original material, which they hope to release this year.
Mr. Wright surmises that Roger Waters, who penned the majority of "The Wall," composed the songs on an acoustic guitar, using simple chords and conventional arrangements much the same way a bluegrass or country artist writes music.
"We had to change the story a bit," Mr. Wright says of the original album's lyrical concept. "We reset it from inner-city England to rural Canada."
The reclusive Mr. Waters himself is said to have given "Rebuilding the Wall" his blessing.
"All we heard was that he liked it and wished us luck with the project," Mr. Wright says.
Retooling classic rock songs is nothing new; it's common practice for "smooth jazz" instrumentalists to give pop tunes the elevator-music treatment, for example. In the world of bluegrass, too, a batch of recordings from a series called "Pickin' On" features various mountain-music pickers paying tribute to rock bands such as U2 and Led Zeppelin.
"Rebuild the Wall" is fairly unusual, though. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to tangle with an album like "The Wall" and run the risk of angering roots-music purists as well as Pink Floyd devotees.
Nevertheless, Mr. Wright says that given the attention his group has received since releasing "Rebuild the Wall," it was worth the gamble.
Those who aren't comfortable with the concept of a countrified "Wall" can console themselves that, when done at hootenanny warp-speed, the Pink Floyd album doesn't last all that long.
"The way we play 'The Wall,' it takes about 50 minutes, so we have to flesh it out with our own songs," Mr. Wright says. "It seems to blend pretty well."

WHAT: Luther Wright & the Wrongs
WHERE: Jammin' Java, 227 Maple Ave., E. Vienna, Va., 22180
WHEN: 8 p.m. tomorrow
INFORMATION: 703/255-1566, Ext. 8, to reserve tickets; www.jamminjava.com for information

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