REVIEW: Whitten’s “How to Speak to Giants” Sets a Standard in Instrumental Country Grooves


A retired road warrior’s solo debut sets a new standard in instrumental country grooves. Whit Wright’s Whitten project showcases the former American Aquarium and current Nashville hired gun’s pedal steel work over a bevy of keys, bass, and drums. How to Speak to Giants (out now) finds Whit exploring musical genres and pushing pedal steel to edge of its country music potential.

Whitten is primarily the vision of Whit Wright (pedal steel, keys) with assistance from Cameron Ralston (bass, production), Pinson Chanselle (drums), Allen Parker (guitar), and Daniel Clark (keys). Recorded at the Spacebomb in Richmond, Virginia, How to Speak to Giants has been released a track at a time over the last six months; the entire collection is due out in late June. Booker T and the MGs provided the template for Whitten, focusing on groove, melody, and live takes. A moody vibe dominates thanks for ambient sound sculptures slipping in an out.

“Golden Hands” announces the start of the album with a driving bass line that awaits the pedal steels arrival with anticipation. As the track builds, drums enter the mix and propel the track forward. The pedal steel creates a memorable melody instantly hummable without the interference of language – emotion dominates the Whitten landscape. “Hidden Water” continues to draw the listener into Giants dream world with a moody slow build before finding its essence in a drifting meander.

A band deemed “cruiser,” “White Branch” embraces the open road with windows down and a disco mix on the radio. Unexpected percussion and guitar lines accent this Khraungbin-esque groove dug up from somewhere between Texas and the Sahara. “Stormalong” follows a similarly divergent musical path by incorporating reggae and dub elements into the musical landscape. Bass dominate with electronic beats and playful pedal steel and quirky guitar lines that find a delightful interplay on a Jamaican beach.

“Vasco” and “The Sling” close the collection with a return to country steel expectations while continuing to push the definition of that expectation. “Vasco” is a slow dreamy lullaby that acts as a pallet cleanser before the final onslaught of “The Sling.” “The Sling” drives deep in the pocket fully embracing the Booker T and the MGs aura for a keys dominated breakdown. A locked down drums and bass provide a bed of groove over which Whit’s pedal steel is given room to soar. Guitar and steel intermingle and take turns pushing “The Sling” to higher levels of intensity before coalescing into an undeniable cooker.

On How to Speak to Giants, Whitten invites us in for a lesson and offers wisdom with a melody and a deep groove. Whitten’s How to Speak to Giants invites repeated listens. Whitten soothes the soul no matter the time of day; late night loneliness, early morning sleepiness, afternoon boredom, or evening revelry. Scoop up a copy of How to Speak to Giants and learn some essential life lessons through the Whitten’s instrumental world.



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