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Lehto & Wright bringing genre-bending music to town

This Saturday, Lehto & Wright will be performing their signature combination of Celtic/American folk and progressive rock at the Grinnell Arts Center. The duo consists of John Wright (acoustic guitar, bass guitar and vocals) and Steve Lehto (acoustic and electric guitars and vocals), while the percussionist, Matt Jacobs, is an occasional additional member.

Lehto & Wright have built an enviable reputation in their home state of Minnesota, but have not yet spread significant influence across the United States. This duo/trio has released seven albums so far, with the latest being “Children’s Songs,” as well as several solo projects.

The musicians admit to have a large spectrum of influences, including Miles Davis, Richard Thompson, and a number of pioneers of progressive folk. Their music, however, transcends each genre it uses as background (including Celtic, jazz, pop, folk, progressive rock) and synthesizes them in a challenging and sometimes surprising manner, thus toeing established boundaries to create a unique musical experience.

Lehto & Wright draw upon traditional Irish and English tunes and tradition, but combine them with some heavy rock and American folk, which makes their music very unusual and different from most things you have heard before.

Their songs vary from quiet and dreamy with acoustic guitar to more aggressive songs with heavy bass and percussion. What makes some of their songs particularly interesting are unexpected transitions between these different moods. In “East Virginia Blues,” for example, they start with slow chords that develop rapidly and are followed by strong percussion, bass guitar and unexpected vocals that give way to progressive rock elements.

Seeing as Lehto and Wright are both acoustic guitarists, many of their songs, such as “Skewbald,” emphasize that instrument in a very captivating manner. Other pieces, like their arrangement of “Of Time and Rivers Flowing,” are reminiscent of finding consolation in nature–“So many homeless sailors, so many winds that blow. … The gods of moving waters will tell us all they know.”

Lehto & Wright have been called “masters of their stringed instruments“ and their vocals sound great combined. Percussion is a brilliant addition to guitar chords—it gives strong character to their songs, creates the right atmosphere for heavier rock and makes their tunes sound more effective, like in “The Silver Tip.”

Lehto and Wright are brought to Grinnell by Voertman Event Series this Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. The concert will be held in the Grinnell Arts Center, and the tickets are available at the Arts Center, McNally’s, Brown’s Shoe Fit, or at the entrance on Saturday. Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students.

This extraordinary trio is surely an interesting choice for your Saturday evening—if nothing else, the variety of their songs and instrumental exibitions guarantees enjoyment to all musical enthusiasts and lovers of good sounds.

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