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Artist:     Victor Wainwright and the Train

Album:     Memphis Loud

Label:     Ruf Records

Release Date:     4.24.20

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Not just loud, but Memphis Loud, the latest sermon of boisterous, big-hearted Americana from Victor Wainwright and The Train is an absolute showstopper that shakes, rattles and rolls until it’s completely out of breath. Working himself into a lather, the piano-pounding Wainwright lets it all hang out, preaching about unity and kindness and rekindling a romance that’s long been in a rut, among other subjects. His hard-luck tales thirst for salvation, and an out-of-body experience allows him to communicate with graveyards full of spirits haunting New Orleans.

Nobody’s asleep in the pews when Wainwright grabs the pulpit, and with Memphis Loud, he’s driving an iron horse of full-on boogie-woogie and rich Southern soul that’s bound for glory. Barreling around the bend with the mighty, celebratory rumble “Mississippi,” the locomotive gathers speed, building a furious rhythmic groove in the title track until slowing down for the captivating “Sing,” a woozy, otherworldly bit of Crescent City bump and grind with ghostly, distant horns, vocals and piano that seem to call out from the afterlife. The sun comes out again on the joyous, uplifting love song “Creek Don’t Rise,” with its surging, rolling momentum, earnest lyrics, and lovely female backing vocals, and “Golden Rule” channels the earthy, hip-swinging R&B of Otis Redding and Muscle Shoals, while “Disappear” is a weary, soulful ballad full of heart and humanity. There is a tender side to Wainwright, after all.

Still, it’s his gregarious personality that’s so infectious. It comes pouring out of Memphis Loud, as The Train’s six other members jam with a luxurious, vibrant, freewheeling sound that’s at its most powerful, radiant and theatrical on “My Dog Riley.” As a playful, fun ode to a canine’s rascally antics, it can’t be beat, although the rootsy, stumbling tale of woe “South End of a North Bound Mule” is almost as drunkenly good-natured and entertaining. And while Wainwright is mostly known for his pumping, high-energy playing and wild abandon, he can also reel off clever little runs with measured subtlety and tickle the ivories with the best of them. Running the gamut from roots rock to blues, jazz, psychedelia and soul/R&B, Memphis Loud is a blowout from beginning to end. Any passenger who buys a ticket will almost certainly enjoy the journey.

—Peter Lindblad

 

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