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Ray Bailey - Cruisin’ For A Bluesin’

Self Release


After a promising start with 1994’s “Satan’s Horn” and being named “Artist Most Deserving Of Wider Recognition” by Living Blues Magazine, health problems and the rigors of a life on the road curtailed Ray Bailey’s career. Now here he is with his first studio release since “Satan’s Horn”. Possessing a strong voice and a varied arsenal of guitar styles his latest release should create some buzz among blues fans and music fans in general. The accompaniment is the basic line up of bass-drums-keyboards as well as harmonica on one track. The individual musicians are allowed to shine through in this clean production.

Ray’s guitar sound and song style owes much to B.B. King at the onset, then travels through jazz-shadings and Jimi Hendrix inspired distortion. All aspects are handled with skill and taste. A story of a woman who loves money, “Ho’s Heart”, introduces us to his commanding voice and traditional blues guitar style. “Tie A Knot” finds him using a more aggressive vocal and guitar attack to good effect, as he squeezes tortured notes from his axe. It’s an emotional and effective tune of perseverance. The very next tune, “Red Headed Stepchild” is a quick change of pace as it leads in slowly with acoustic country-blues style guitar. He deftly plays two guitar parts to complement each other.

And now for something completely different…The title track is a jazzy-blues instrumental that also features Mikal Majeed sounding like Jimmy Smith on some tasty organ work and Ray sounding like Wes Montgomery. The first use of Hendrix-inspired distortion is on the crunchy delightful, noise-fest that is “My Baby’s On A Mission”. “I’m Gonna Keep On Loving You” begins as a slow band-backed tender acoustic ballad… then he says “Like this ya’ll” and unleashes a burning “Foxey Lady” guitar assault, all the while keeping the song’s slow and tender pace. His guitar playing compliments his plaintive vocals perfectly. Otis Spann influenced piano coupled with a lazy guitar part and a Muddy Waters vocal approach makes “Little Girl” sound like a long-lost Muddy song. “Get Out Of Jail Free Card” is a cautionary tale of money excess done up in classic blues style punctuated by Denis DePoitre’s Little Walter-like harmonica style.

The guitar distortion thing backfires on “I Just Can’t Cry No More”, where it becomes a mess of unwanted noise not doing service to the song. Fortunately the record closes out on a high note with a nice and slow, cool-jazz tinged version of “Going Down Slow”, a song closely associated with Howlin’ Wolf. Ray could have opted for a guitar workout, but instead he used it as a chance to display his warm voice.

A variety of styles is achieved here with just using different guitar tones and styles. It shows that there is thought behind the playing here, along with the emotion. They could have included exotic instruments and grand production to attain a potpourri of sounds, but perhaps what was done here was more creative. Clear production and a rock- steady rhythm section make this collection a pleasing listening experience.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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