Luther Black And The Cold Hard Facts “Let The Light Back In”

Drunken Angel Music, 2024

Perceptive observations from a seasoned traveller.

Luther Black is the alter ego of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rick Wagner. ‘Let in The Light’ is the ensemble’s third release. Interestingly he chooses to open it with a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Room at the Top’ which Petty saw as a very depressing song. Wagner has seen it differently and feels it is more about finding inner peace as mayhem surrounds you.  This interpretation sets the tone for the entire album. It is one where a seasoned, often weary traveller can look at life’s chaos with a sense of detachment. His observations are honest, straightforward, unassuming and work very well indeed as a result.

This is perfectly demonstrated in the acoustic ‘Coming Home’  where he sees what has happened to his hometown while he has been away ‘it’s the hope that kills you, kills you every time’, and even more disheartening is ‘Ghosts on the Boulevard’ where he finds ‘vape shops where the record store used to be’. Pointedly he tells us nothing aches like a memory. The feeling of potential loss is felt in the rockiest song ‘Aint Nothing Good About Goodbye’. Where lovers are trying to stay together, he tells her that he wants to stay away from the “ highway of regrets, that’s a long and lonesome road where the days are dark and the nights are cold”  All is not lost, however. ‘Let the Light In’ captures spiritual redemption and possibly inner sanctity with an optimistic energy to it. The very simple ‘Lost in the Rye’ advises the recipient to ‘stay young and carefree and wild like a pure-hearted child stay lost, lost in the rye’. These songs have hope at their very core.

The stand-out track is ‘Black and Blue’ about the awful difficulties young black people face with American law enforcement. It is spoken in his deep Southern drawl with the chorus being harmonised with Brandi Thompson. It is very thought-provoking and in many ways a difficult listen. A 2024 version of ‘In the Ghetto’.

It is difficult to categorize this album; it has a gospel feeling running throughout with nods to Ray Wylie Hubbard and Bob Dylan especially on ‘Can’t Catch the Wind’.He even tackles the soul classic ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ . What holds it all together is Wagner’s soft but gravelly voice and the excellent slide guitar work of  Lance Doss.

Wagner has said, “We are living in dark times, and this album is my way of finding an escape from the darkness”. He has done that in spades it is unpretentious, beautifully observed, and utterly sincere. It’s an album well worth checking out.


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