When I was in college, a group of friends and I instituted Pink Floyd Day. The idea was, we’d block out a single 14- or 15-hour span during which we’d play every single Floyd album, in the order of their release. Throughout the day we’d enhance the experience with the assistance of whatever vegetative smokables we could put our hands on.
This is the sort of notion, like clove cigarettes and open-mike poetry, toward which the young brain addled by 8 a.m. philosophy classes tends to gravitate. And, of course, you get simply a passel of brilliant ideas during an experience like that; I recall a stretch of time where we attempted to make food-related puns on all the song titles. (We were very, very hungry.)
Such, I am convinced, was the genesis of Rebuild the Wall, a full-album bluegrass arrangement of the classic Pink Floyd album that succeeds far better than it looks on paper.
It doesn’t hurt that the Ontario-based Luther Wright and his compatriots play good bluegrass, of course; a project like this stands or falls largely on the skills of its interpreters. But after all, The Wall dealt in excess, booze, sexual infidelity, madness, isolation and mortality — all the touchstones of classic country music. And when Wright and Co. are able to pull those threads from the original prog-rock tapestry and rearrange them into accomplished bluegrass settings, Rebuild the Wall works like all hell.
Particularly successful are the “isolation” songs, such as “Comfortably Numb,” “Nobody Home” (which manages to sound, inexplicably, like a lost Jimmie Rodgers side) and “One of My Turns.” Less successful, somewhat predictably, is the straightforward performance of the album’s warhorse, “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” which the band seems unwilling to fiddle with. (Sorry.)
There’s an unavoidable whiff of novelty about the album, which may or may not dissipate as you listen; and, of course, the purists will sneer. But as a whispered harmonica states the refrain from “Outside the Wall” and slides into “In the Flesh?” you’ll have a pretty reliable sense of whether this undeniably intriguing project is for you. Now pass the Cheez Doodles. Hey, have you ever really looked at your hands?
E-mail Eric Waggoner at firstname.lastname@example.org.