Victor Wainwright & The Train

Victor Wainwright & The Train

(Ruf Records)

This is an artist that I saw perform last year up in Camden, thanks to guitar ace Todd Sharpville. This collection centres upon his dazzling keyboard style and driving feel for electric roots music..making him a distinctly different Wainwright, to say the least! More feisty than fey, you might say…

These Ardent Studio sessions were produced by Wainwright and David Gross and there is a host of sharp and empathetic players aboard for the recordings.

We kick off with Healing with its sprightly piano motifs and full-blooded ensemble sound. Victor’s voice has power, grit and complete authenticity. Cleverly mixing a rousing tempo with the odd pastoral passage, the song is a bit of adventure all round. Fabulous bass lines and biting guitar across swift Hammond runs. It sounds a bit churchy in that it is spirited and declamatory.

On to Wiltshire Grave, a guitar-led sinister item, nightclub horns and all and a tale of a femme fatale; Train is hot piano and a breakneck pace worthy of Mickey Gilley, catchy as hell and featuring ascending horn emphasis. Dull Your Shine takes its time on a slow rickety beat, echoes for this listener of Randy Newman, melodic cadences giving an intriguing vibe to the number. Money takes the path of greasy funk, vocal to suit, something of a cautionary tale and maybe a Bo Diddley or Chuck influence in the lyric. Love the guitar break on this one! Pat Harrington, I guess. A touch of Pat Hare…

Thank You Lucille has a beautiful roll to it and pure B B King axework – by Mike Welch no less – as the words testify. Maybe the best vocal on the set and clearly heartfelt. Boogie Depression starts eerily then turns into Floyd Cramer for a few bars, turning into a Rockin’ Pneumonia-tinged rocker. On to Everything I Need is a grizzled soul ballad, well delivered and originally phrased. Righteous is all about tension, pumped out of the piano chording. The words are apocalyptic and almost spat out, conjuring dark clouds overhead. I’ll Start Tomorrow gives us an old-timey barroom lament, all about dieting. Excellent!

Sunshine is peaceful and haunting, based on Hammond and dirty slide guitar figures. It sounds like a storm coming or a Southern film noir opening resolving into a pacey tune with flute warbles and eventually a soulful vocal over wandering bass. It is then a Charlie Daniels Band type guitar jam for a while. The set closes with That’s Love To Me and the closest our Victor gets to Dr John vocal phrasing on a gorgeous soft-focus number.

Tough and tender and all points in between, this record is a trip through the larger than life soul of an inspired musician and his crew. A triumph, imho.

Pete Sargeant


(Thanks to RUF Records and Proper)

Victor Wainwright & Big Train's self-titled mew album is out now on RUF Records.

For more information visit Victor Wainwright's official website here: