Sing Out Magazine
Lots of nimble fingers as multi-instrumentalist and long time member of the Toronto bluegrass mafia Joey Wright links up with a choice selection of like-minded Canadian pals - fiddler Jesse Zubot, guitarist Steve Dawson (whose playing on the cumbersome Weissenborn guitar is especially laudable), double bassist Joe Phillips and Mandolin ace Dan Whitely - on a set of what Wright refers to as "cinematic quasi-bluegrass jazz compositions." The follow-up to 2003's well received Camp, Wright's Black Hen debut is another spiffy bunch of instantly congenial acoustic instrumentals that deftly draw upon the aforementioned bluegrass and jazz idioms in addition to the blues (marvelously enlivened with a definite twang on the extended "Blues for Motown") and world music. With the exception of a dreamy, Hawaiian-tinged redo of Duke Ellington's rippling "Come Sunday," that showcases Wright's formidable finesse on a National tricone guitar, all the songs are recent Wright originals.
Sparklers begin immediately with the opening title song, a jalopy-ride like breakdown bouncer that slyly pokes fun at the bluegrass tradition (as does the later up-beat reverie "Giddy Up Bill Monroe") and continues through the fiddle-fraught free for-all "Valse de Sandrine," a chordally swirling, stream-of-consciousness cadenced "Jethro Monk," the elegiac "Andre The Giant" (a tribute to the late wrestler) and a shadowy "Interpol," full of stealthy, tip-toe finger-picking and sliding chords.
Other notables, all likewise brimming with artfully shifting tempos and melodies, include the intricately articulate "Robot Two Step" (with added vamping on harmonica by Whitely) and on an unabashedly nostalgic, timeless "Waltz For GG." Wright is also the guitar/mandolin player with Sarah Harmer and the legendary Toronto bluegrass ensemble Crazy Strings and regularly appears across Canada with his Juno Award winning wife Jenny Whitely. He has also done some imaginative television and film score composing. Recommended.