Chely Wright is a country artist that should be celebrated. She’s an innovator and a trailblazer. A vehement supporter of those who serve our country. And an all-around wonderful person. She won the Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist in 1995 and had 2004’s highest selling country song “The Bumper of My S.U.V.” She also happens to be a lesbian (which she announced in 2010), which embarrassingly doesn’t gel with mainstream Nashville country (thankfully this is starting to change).
Her remarkable new album I Am The Rain is a celebration of motherhood and acceptance of personal relationships, and is one of the finest sounding albums of 2016. Chely Wright recently brought her live show to The Rams Head On Stage with a joint headlining performance with Amy Ray (of The Indigo Girls) to the delight of a sold-out Annapolis crowd.
A Magical Night with Chely Wright In Annapolis Begins…
Joined by guitarist Teddy Krumpel, Chely Wright graciously took the stage and said that The Ram’s Head was “perhaps my favorite place to play in America…people come here to listen to the music…don’t get too drunk…maybe a little drunk” to the delight and laughter of those in attendance (personally, I was in the maybe a little drunk side by night’s end). She started her set with one of the stand-out tracks on her new album, the up-tempo “What About Your Heart” into a stirring version of “It Was.”
A quartet of songs off I Am The Rain followed. “Holy War,” a passionate song with wonderfully soaring vocals, fell into the beautifully crafted “You Are The River” about accepting the in imperfectness of love. While Introducing “Pain,” Chely Wright explained how much she admired Emmylou Harris and how honored she was that the legend sang on the song with her on the album. Most telling was her Bob Dylan cover of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” where she noted that her producer, highly-regarded songwriter Joe Henry, suggested that she record it for the album. The thought of doing a cover song had her skittish at first, but after listening to the track on her daily six-mile jaunt around Central Park, she knew it was a perfect fit for her. It was brilliant live.
For me, the most poignant moment of the night was the stirring tale behind the song and subsequent performance of “The Bumper Of My S.U.V.” which brought tears to my eyes. If you’ve seen her before or read her book “Like Me,” you know the story. If you have a friend or family member serving in the military, it’s even more real. The ultimate message though is, despite our political affiliations we should all be grateful for those that serve.
As “Bumper” ended and the tears were wiped away, Chely Wright broke into her first hit record “Shut Up And Drive” which garnered a raucously joyful response from the crowd. The poetic “Where Will You Be” off the new album followed. At its conclusion she playfully stated, “that’s kind of a nasty little song, isn’t it?” Yes it is…and wonderfully so.
That’s the thing about seeing Chely Wright live. She has a booming personality and loves to talk and share stories about her life. The good and the bad. Most of her tales though are flush with humor. Such as the story about the recording of her “coming out album” Lifted Off The Ground, where she joked that her label execs were concerned about the album’s dour sounding songs and insisted that she write a “positive” and “hopeful” song. That conference call inspired the track “Something Positive And Hopeful,” which certainly didn’t appear on Lifted. The song is jaunty and fun crowd-pleaser in which she sings “well I hope that you are miserable and I’m positive I hate your guts.”
Closing out the night, Chely Wright played her first No. 1 song, the ebullient “Single White Female,” which had the mostly LGBT-friendly crowd wildly singing along and cheering, especially during the “new” alternate ending where she changes the end of the last chorus to “looking for a GIRL like you.”
Chely Wright is a county artist that is making a difference. It may not be on the charts (which is a shame), but I think she is more than fine with that as long as she can further her message through speaking engagements and in the press that the bullying of those in the LGBT community (particularly teens) is unacceptable. In the end, country MUSIC fans should embrace Chely Wright for her songwriting/storytelling and that gorgeous twang in her voice, just like they did in the mid-90s through the turn of the century.