In 1977, the virtually unknown singer-songwriter Willie Wright recorded an album in New York City. Only 1,000 copies of that LP were pressed, and Wright sold them out of his trunk to the tourists that he entertained at hotels on Nantucket Island. 30 years later, Telling The Truth is being reissued in its entirety by Numero.
Wright honed his performing techniques in New York and Boston during both cities’ times of bohemian renaissance in the ’60s. Because of this, folk music is a strong influence on this soulful mix of ballads and slow grooving funk songs. An example of this is “Nantucket Island,” an ode to the place where Wright took refuge as a lounge singer. The scatted chorus establishes the breezy feel that the guitar and occasional piano riffs hint at during the intro. Another soft carefree track is “Indian Reservation,” a song about his mother’s Cherokee roots and his childhood home of St. Louis, Missouri. In both songs, Wright’s lyrics are never complex and get straight to the point.
Wright, who was known to be a wanderer and lover of many women, sings about his lifestyle in “Love is Expensive” and “Jackie’s Song.” The album’s standout track however, is a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Right On For The Darkness.” It wasn’t included on the original pressing, but luckily has been included in this reissue and allows for Wright’s instrumentation skills to be fully realized. As well as being a very good funk guitar player, he was also a great flautist. The smooth groove on “Right On For The Darkness” gives enough room for improved flute lines as well as some additional percussion like congas and bongos perfectly complementing Wright’s deep, Marvin Gaye-sounding voice. Telling The Truth is an hour of purely enjoyable songs that could have been, and are luckily not, lost gems.