Special Measures is the debut album from guitarist JONO WRIGHT.
Wright might hail from the Midlands in the UK, but the heart and soul of Special Measures lies some 4000 miles away in Nashville, Tennessee. Named after Wright’s experiences in the education sector, the album was inspired by the fingerstyle playing of Chet Atkins. Special Measures features ten instrumental tracks of dexterous playing and beatific melodies, all surrounded by moments of contemplative introspection and joyous levity.
Recorded with George Shilling (Bernard Butler, Billy Bragg, Steve Winwood, Primal Scream), ‘Special Measures’ follows Wright’s debut EP, 6 (2018). Between 6 and beginning to write the pieces that form Special Measures, Wright began an intense process of learning the complex and dexterous fingerstyle technique with guidance and encouragement from fellow guitarist Gareth Pearson.
“Growing up, my dad was always obsessed with this type of music,” says Wright. “I didn’t think I’d ever be able to learn to do how what those guitarists were doing. The idea of playing more than one thing on the guitar at once made no sense to me. So I’d always been into it, but just couldn’t figure out how to do it, or where to start.”
The album opens with ‘Rubecula’ and ‘Shiver’, two becalming, meditative pieces that started from the same experience. “Rubecula’ is the Latin name for the robin,” explains Wright. “I’d had a conversation with somebody from work whose dad had recently died. She said that if a robin is near you, it represents a person who has passed away. When we were in Canada one Summer, we went to stay with one of my aunties. Her father, my great uncle, had passed away a few years before, and this was the first time I’d visited since he’d died. He was like a grandad to me. We were talking in her kitchen, and behind her on the shelf was a jug with a robin on it. It just hit me. The feeling that I got after seeing that robin was like a shiver, like a chill. That’s why those two tracks fit into one another.”
Elsewhere, the gentle, wistful ‘146’ was prompted by TV footage of Captain Sir Tom Moore’s lockdown walks for charity, something that made him a magnet for anyone looking for reasons to be cheerful during the challenging, bleak days of the 2020 pandemic. “146 was the last regiment he was in,” explains Wright. “I could have made a big thing of naming it after him, but I thought this was a little nod of the cap instead.”
One of the album’s highlights is ‘Ziggy’s Bounce’, a carefree, lighthearted track named after Wright’s golden retriever. “I take him for walks every day, and he hears all of my problems – my deepest, darkest thoughts and secrets,” he confesses. “This piece is him all over. He’s playful and stupid and everything in between.” A similarly jubilant free-spiritedness occupies the brief ‘Jenny Wren’, a tender piece written about Wright’s mother.
Although the album is primarily Wright solo, there are moments where his captivating guitar is joined by other instruments. These interventions are always sensitively employed, and never intrusive. George Shilling’s stirring, emotional cello can be heard on pieces like ‘End Of The Road’ and ‘Last Train’, while Wright and Gareth Pearson together offer a dizzying display of fingerstyle technique on the lyrical, carefree ‘Gone Fishing’.
The album concludes with ‘Sweet Dreams’, which Wright describes as the lullaby to his children that he wrote far too late. Sweet, loving, hopeful and full of life, it acts as the perfect emotive counterweight to the themes of mortality and acceptance that cling to the opening moments of this very special and moving album.
Special Measures track listing:
End Of The Road
All tracks written and performed by Jono Wright. Produced by Jono Wright and George Shilling.
Cello on ‘Rubecula’, ‘Shiver’, ‘Last Train’ and ‘End Of The Road’ by George Shilling. Additional guitar on ‘Gone Fishing’ by Gareth Pearson.
Recorded at Manor Gardens Studio, Newton Abbot.
Artwork by Andi Chamberlain.
Special Measures is released digitally worldwide on 31 July 2023.
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