Looking and listening on the Bright side

Talented duo delights house concert group

Don Bray and Alyssa Wright – The Brights – performed at the home of Johnny Strilaeff and Tracy Weaver on Sept. 19.

There wasn’t much advance notice when The Brights came to town for a house concert on Sept. 19.

There was room for another dozen or so people at the Ooteschenia home of Johnny Strilaeff and Tracy Weaver, and the difference would have been meaningful to a couple of musical powerhouses making their way home to Southern Ontario.

But the duo of Alyssa Wright and Don Bray delivered a couple of awesome sets to a thoroughly appreciative group of about 20 in a garage with the charismatic charm they might have used at a high-end, big city venue.

The Orillia dwellers had been on the road for five weeks when they came through, having played Kelowna on the way from the coast.

It was thanks to Strilaeff and Weaver, along with Tim O’Doherty (who had got the heads up from a Kelowna contact that someone special was headed our way) that the whole thing came together. Everyone there was glad it did.

The world is always hungry for classification and The Brights can be described as a roots/folk/gospel/blues type of outfit. But the important point to make is that they are both experienced, gifted, original and extremely likable.

With Bray on vocals, guitar (fingerstyle acoustic and Weissenborn slide) and Wright supplying vocals, cello, accordion and rhythmic wizardry, the two-hour show literally flew by.

The easy-going pair took turns being featured and introducing the songs, with the other providing the utmost in sensitive and capable back-up.

It’s not that easy to describe their material other than to say there was nothing resembling a weak or lacklustre moment in either of their sets. The pacing was spot-on.

Bray is a self-taught musician and does his thing with comfortable confidence. Wright is described by Bray as the “real deal,” a classically trained virtuoso.

The sonic beauty and power at the cellist’s disposal is indeed jaw-dropping. When it suited the moment, she and her carbon-fibre instrument put out a thrilling level of sound and tone. The one (I believe) non-original piece they performed was a gorgeous intrumental offering of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” by Alyssa on the cello.

Bray has spent the bulk of his 40-something-year career as a solo artist. Born in 1952 he says he started out with records by Gordon Lightfoot… and the Yardbirds.

“I was really torn,” he related.

“So in high school I got into a rock band. But even back then, I just couldn’t handle the volume. So I started doing solo stuff.” He, incidentally, is likely to return this way as a solo act, possibly in February.

Wright has done plenty as well. Her expert technique and sight reading ability making her highly sought-after in the studio, as Bray had pointed out.

The two started playing as a duo after having each supported the other on their respective recording projects.

“We’ve officially been a duo since about 2007,” explained Wright. “Everyone kept saying how they preferred us together.”

If you’ve got web access you can hear what ‘everyone’ was getting at. Just check out www.thebrights.ca and look for the audio samples.

It was great to see The Brights, and great to see them in such friendly, intimate surroundings.

House concerts are definitely well worth supporting… and a low-overhead performing option for the artist.


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