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Don Ray Band - Lonesome Rider

Margdon Records

12 songs; 53:47 minutes

Styles: Bluesy Southern Rock

Sometimes, the line between blues and rock is hard to define. When it becomes blurred, blues novices might get confused and purists irritated! The Don Ray Band, a Tennessee ensemble with Margdon Records, treads this hair-thin threshold. Most of the twelve songs on their “Lonesome Rider” album are of medium tempo with roaring guitar, but in terms of whether they fall into the blues or rock genre, many listeners may find themselves scratching their heads.

On his website, Don says, “I was never happy with the constraints of a single style of music. I was always wanting improvisation and groove to go with my stories.” At the age of 18, He left the Souix City IA for Austin TX. Don says, “I was really diggin' the kick ass Blues coming out of that area, and I wanted to get closer to it. I learned quickly that Austin was the perfect place to work on creating a sound that would fuse Country, Rock and the Blues into my own style.”

Nevertheless, are his latest songs worth a listen? Yes. Are they danceable? On several tracks, most definitely! Worth Muddy Waters’ praise from beyond the grave? That’s up for debate, but “Lonesome Rider” won’t leave one out in the cold.

The album is entertaining, right from the start with “The Trigger”. Ray narrates the tale of how a bluesman got his start. He meets a savvy older woman who becomes his manager and lover: “I’m the heart and she’s the brain,” Ray sings without a trace of envy. “I rule the stage, but don’t call me Mister. I hold the gun, but she pulls the trigger!” Chuckles may ensue at the double entendre, at least if listeners can hear the lyrics over the guitar.

Later on come the two best songs on the CD, “Victim of Passion” and “The Ruckus Room”. These are polar opposites in terms of theme and lyrical content, but they will stick in one’s mind long after their last notes die away. “...Passion” pays tribute to heroes who are “kings with a cross to bear”--Elvis, MLK, Jr., our soldiers off at war, and even THE King, if you’re a Christian. “The Ruckus Room”, on the other hand, is an addicting sing-along that celebrates kings of the blues: Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Muddy himself. If you’re not up and on the dance floor during this one, or at least not grooving in your chair, you’re missing out on a lot!

Speaking of “missing”, there seems to be something missing from quite a few of the other songs: the watermark of pure blues. “Poison”, “In Your Eyes”, and even the title track are tarnished rock songs that connoisseurs might want to skip if they’re looking for twenty-four-karat blues gold.

Don Ray has commanding, clear vocals and great studio musicians, especially the three guitarists, but having the word “blues” in a song does NOT a blues song make. Depending on their target audience, he and his band would do well to remember that. ?

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 31 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of the 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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