John WrightView In iTunes
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Called "the songwriter's singer" for his uncanny interpretive abilities, John Wright emerged late in life as one of the foremost British folk balladeers of his generation. Born June 22, 1947, in coastal Bournemouth, England, and raised in Manchester, Wright first sang alongside his three older brothers in their church's choir, and in his early twenties he moonlighted in a series of little-known rock bands while working by day as a salesman. After impulsively joining the British Army's Household Cavalry unit in 1970, Wright grew deeply attached to country life, and upon leaving the military in 1974 he settled in North Yorkshire, working as an assistant shepherd. He continued toiling as a hill shepherd after relocating across the border to the Newcastleton and Hawick area, and in his spare time began collecting and playing traditional folk songs — only when a postman heard Wright singing around his farm was he invited to perform at a local social dance, and for years he remained in relative anonymity, singing almost exclusively at community events. With proceeds from the sale of a horse, in 1990 Wright funded sessions for Border Crossings, a stark collection of traditional British folk ballads — the initial pressing of 200 cassettes sold out in three days thanks to a profile in a local newspaper, and subsequent editions sold about 3,500 copies in all. A collaboration with local guitarist Kenny Spiers brought Wright to the attention of Fellside Records, and in 1993 the label issued his first proper full-length, Ride the Rolling Sky. A brief tour of the Netherlands followed, and with the follow-up The Things We've Handed Down he began moving past his traditional repertoire in favor of more contemporary material, much of it self-penned. For 1999's Pages Turning Wright signed to the Greentrax label, a leap that brought his music even greater attention, and he continued releasing new LPs on an annual basis until his sudden death on February 7, 2008.