released May 4th, 2010

from the album - Broken

from all music

After several years of hard touring, Chely Wright broke through to become a chart-topping star on the contemporary country scene. Born Richelle Renee Wright in Kansas City in 1970, she grew up in the small town of Wellsville, KS, and fell in love with country music before she'd even started school. She took piano lessons starting at age four and began singing in groups at 11, also playing trumpet in her school band. At 14 she started performing in local clubs with a backing band called County Line, which featured her father on bass. The summer after her junior year of high school she performed in the long-running Ozark Jubilee show, and as a senior she successfully auditioned for a job impersonating female country stars at Nashville's Opryland theme park. She moved there permanently in 1989 and spent the next three years working at Opryland and an assortment of day jobs. Eventually, she landed a publishing deal on the strength of her songwriting, and a record contract with Mercury/Polydor followed.

Wright's debut album, Woman in the Moon, was released in 1994 and attracted positive notice from some critics and the country music community, earning her a Top New Female Vocalist award from the ACM. Unfortunately, neither it nor its follow-up, 1996's Right in the Middle of It, sold very well. Wright asked for her release from Polydor and moved over to MCA, where she had the opportunity to work with the commercially savvy producer Tony Brown. Though it wasn't a smash, Wright's 1997 label debut, Let Me In, did make the country Top 40 and gave the singer her first Top 20 hit in "Shut Up and Drive." Moreover, her constant touring was paying off in the form of a growing fan base, setting the stage for her breakthrough with 1999's Single White Female. The album's title track became Wright's first number one hit, and the following year she and Brad Paisley performed a duet on their co-composition "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife." Her next album, Never Love You Enough, became her first to break the country Top Ten, and she reached the Top 30 with the title track and "Jezebel." In 2004, after leaving MCA, she released Everything, a collection of leftover session material not included on her previous releases, on her own Painted Red imprint. In 2005 Wright moved over to Dualtone for The Metropolitan Hotel. After a long tour, Wright took an extended break from recording, and finally re-emerged in 2010 with Lifted Off the Ground on Vanguard, as well as the written memoir Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer from Random House. In May of 2010, Ms. Wright came out as gay in a People Magazine profile on her album and autobiography.

album review

In the late 1990s, Chely Wright had number one singles and Top Ten albums. After releasing 2005’s excellent Metropolitan Hotel on the independent Dualtone, she vanished. In the intervening years, Wright endured a personal crucible that drove her to write in order to remain sane. Songs came furiously, demanding to be written. Wondering where these songs were taking her, she cold-called Rodney Crowell, whom she barely knew. After an initial meeting in which she played him her songs, Wright dropped demos into his mailbox, and insisted he email her comments on them. Eventually, Crowell gently coaxed her to make Lifted Off the Ground for Vanguard, which he produced. This period also resulted in her memoir, Like Me, published on the day of this release. Crowell’s production is simple yet elegant. Performer and producer focused on getting this beautifully articulated, brutally poignant, 11-song cycle across as directly as possible. Wright, once regarded as a singer and performer, has become a songwriter of consequence here. The set opens with “Broken,” where her protagonist addresses a lover with the same trust issues she is plagued with: ”Why can’t you just believe in me/Not everyone is the enemy…I’m wagin’ war up in my head/Last time I loved it nearly left me dead….” Acoustic guitars with a bassline pushing them are accented by a drum kit and a Fender Rhodes, which lilt around her lyrics, letting them reveal themselves airily. “Notes to the Coroner” is an uptempo tune that addresses what might once have been a real possibility. Woven electric and acoustic guitars, popping bass patterns, and subtle drums underscore her lyrics' chilling details of the protagonist’s demise as a B-3 paints the tag lines. More sarcastic than morbid, it still comes from an enormous ball of pain. Things get even darker on the haunting “Snow Globe” before they begin to transition. First, there’s self-doubt expressed on “Like Me,” before the desire for another state of being asserts itself on the rocking “That Train.” “Damn Liar” moves through anger, as country and rock meet the blues in an infectious melody. That theme is echoed in “Object of Your Rejection,” though the grain of Wright’s voice has changed: she’s squarely looking at and confronting her offender with acceptance, and this is reflected in the melody and tempo. “Shadows of Doubt” closes the set with a steely resolve that is grounded in humility and an honest vulnerability. Lifted Off the Ground is easily the most harrowing and lovely recording in Wright's catalog. Crowell’s ability to guide songs rather than helm them aided her in accomplishing the most difficult task an artist can encounter: complete reinvention. Wright has succeeded in spades.

Track Listing

1 Broken Wright 3:37
2 Heavenly Days Crowell, Wright 3:44
3 Hang Out in Your Heart Wright 4:28
4 Notes to the Coroner Wright 3:27
5 Snow Globe Wright 3:32
6 Like Me Wright 3:50
7 That Train Wright 4:19
8 Damn Liar Wright 4:03
9 Wish Me Away Wright 3:36
10 Object of Your Rejection Wright 3:43
11 Shadows of Doubt Wright 6:18