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Dave “Snaker” Ray – My Blue Heaven

Blue Suit Records

14 tracks; 47.52 minutes

Dave “Snaker” Ray passed away in 2002, shortly after the last of these recordings was made. In the well written and detailed sleeve notes his former collaborator Tony Glover gives us a real feel for the man and his passion for the blues. This CD stands as a worthy marker of a career spent in the playing and the promotion of the music.

Dave started out with friends ‘Spider’ John Koerner (guitar) and Tony Glover (harp) in a trio “KR&G” which went on to record several albums for Elektra. Dave continued to record both solo and in bands and became particularly known for his 12-string guitar prowess. In the mid-1990s Dave moved to Toledo, Ohio, home of Blue-Suit Records and became very involved with local events that the company was promoting, including local blues festivals. KR&G had reformed to record an album and played at a 2001 festival from which two tracks on this CD are taken. Two further, previously unissued, tracks were recorded at sessions for Eddie Kirkland’s “Democrat Blues” album, with Dave singing and fronting Eddie’s band; the remaining tracks are all live and solo, recorded the day after the Kirkland sessions.

Dave had a pleasant voice which works well across all the material presented here and across the recordings demonstrates his mastery of electric, 6- and 12-string guitars. The two tracks recorded with KR&G come from a gig at the Toledo Museum of Art, June 2, 2001. Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key To The Highway” is a favorite warhorse of many players, both acoustic and electric, and the trio do a fine job on it, Tony Glover’s harp taking the first solo after Dave’s relaxed vocal, with plenty of guitar picking following. “My Blue Heaven” is a pop standard from long ago, but Dave apparently often played it, using its changes of chords to take us on a 12-string race.

The two outtakes from the October 4 2002 Eddie Kirkland session are full band productions. Fuzzy Samuels (ex-Steven Stills) is on bass, Andre Wright on drums, Eddie Kirkland and Dave on guitars, with Dave singing. “Hootie Blues” is a Jay McShann number, quite jazzy in style. Dave takes the solo part on the intro, Eddie featuring on the middle solo. Johnny Adams’ “Moment Of Weakness” has a funky beat and Dave’s vocal adopts a more soulful delivery to fit the tune. Eddie Kirkland handles the lead guitar duties on this one.

The solo performances from the following day’s concert at the Macomber Auditorium (October 5 2002) cover a good range of material. “Way Back Down Home” is from the pen of Freddy Spruell and is a sprightly 12-string driven piece which takes us back to an era when communication was either by telegram or telephone at the Western Union. I particularly enjoyed Little Willie John’s “Person To Person” (which fits well with the telephone theme of the Spruell tune!) and Dave’s fast fingered version of “Rock Me Mama” (Lightnin’ Slim). Appropriately Dave gets his slide out for Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying” and tackles a medley of John Lee Hooker tunes, “Big Legs, Tight Skirt/Serve Me Right To Suffer” with a catchy beat.

This is a well-deserved tribute to Dave’s career. It is good that the record company was willing to issue these recordings and I am sure that they will be appreciated by those who enjoy well played and sung acoustic blues.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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