John Lincoln Wright was to my mind the best country singer to come out of New England, except for Dick Curless, and undoubtedly the best songwriter. He was also a terrific band leader and stage presence (though to my knowledge he never played an instrument on stage). Takin’ Old Route One on David Gessner’s Esca Records was his first country album, one that revealed his unique voice to any who paid attention back in 1976. Unfortunately, like all of his albums (except for That Old Mill, on my Northeastern Records label) it had little or no national exposure or distribution. Lincoln was, and remained, a regional secret. Nashville was still in the throes of the ‘countrypolitan’ sound of the ’60s; the ‘outlaw’ movement, sparked by Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Jo Shaver and others was just beginning to make headway on radio. By rights, Lincoln should have been in the forefront. Nobody else could do a better job of updating old Bob Wills tunes with an electric-guitar edge, and nobody else (except maybe Billy Jo) was writing more memorable songs.
It has been a long wait, but thanks to Victoria Benedict (Lincoln’s widow) and Larry Flint, Takin’ Old Route One is finally available on compact disc. You’ve been hearing the songs on Hillbilly at Harvard for lo’ these many decades, and even if you are the rare soul with a copy of the LP, you will want the CD. If you’ve got JLW fans on your Christmas list, or someone you think will appreciate country songs that never wear thin, this is the time to get a few copies.
Takin’ Old Route One is available at cdbaby (see screen shot above). I see it’s also listed at cdUniverse, and collectors’ choice music, but cdbaby looks to have the best price. They also have That Old Mill, Lincoln’s acoustic tribute to Maine and the workin’ man.
Erratum: The Route One CD has a large copyright notice of ‘1991’ on the back; it’s a mistake. /CL