Texas native Caron "Sugaray" Rayford is one of those rare performers who has "it." I first became a fan when he appeared at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco with the band Aunt Kizzy's Boyz, and have made it a point to catch his shows whenever he comes to town. Randy Chortkoff, head honcho at Delta Groove Music, wisely gave Sugaray that lucky break that he so richly deserved by adding him to the Mannish Boys project. Sugaray was featured on their CD, Double Dynamite, which won a Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Album of the Year in May 2013.
Everything about this CD is immense—14 tracks and a supporting cast of 15 musicians in addition to Sugaray! Golden Gate Grooves, January 2014
Here’s the all-star cast supporting Sugaray in alpha order: Chris "Kid" Andersen, Jimi Bott, Willie J. Campbell, Randy Chortkoff, Ron Dziubla, Anthony Geraci, Franck Goldwasser, Fred Kaplan, Gino Matteo, Sugar Ray Norcia, Mark Pender, Bill Stuve, Big Pete van der Pluijm, Monster Mike Welch, and Kim Wilson.
The first cut, "Country Boy," is a Chicago-influenced original written by Sugar Ray Norcia, who tears loose with an explosive harmonica solo that enhances the down-to-earth lyrics and Sugaray's vocal interpretation. This duo continues with a fun excursion on the other tune composed by Sugar Ray Norcia, "Two Times Sugar," trading off on the vocals..."two times sugar, two times better than one..." featuring Monster Mike Welch on guitar.
On the Chortkoff composition "I'm Dangerous," Sugaray exhibits controlled vocal power with great result that lifts the rather assertive staccato melody. The added touches of Anthony Geraci's piano flourishes and Sugar Ray Norcia's expressive harmonica support provide notable results.
Sugaray co-wrote three of the tunes on the CD with Ralph Carter, including "Stuck for a Buck," "I Might Do Something Crazy," and the standout tune "Need a Little More Time." The latter is a fantastic excursion with Franck Goldwasser accompanying on National steel guitar, Kid Andersen on rhythm guitar, and Randy Chortkoff lending some harmonica. This is my favorite track; it’s the downhome country hill-styled blues that I love and Sugaray's vocal take on it is perfectly inflected.
On Pee Wee Crayton’s “When It Rains It Pours,” the slow jazzy-blues tempo gives Sugaray the opportunity to show his command of understated emotional power. Fred Kaplan on piano and Franck Goldwasser on guitar layer the tune with a lush background. Chortkoff's original tune “Goin’ Back to Texas” is a perfect vehicle for Sugaray to wax nostalgic about his home state; Kim Wilson is featured on harmonica, Goldwasser on slide guitar, and Welch on rhythm guitar. "In the Dark" (Junior Parker/Don Robey) is an uptown blues that swings like crazy thanks to Andersen on lead guitar, Goldwasser on rhythm guitar, Chortkoff on harmonica, and Sugaray's jaunty vocals. It also features Fred Kaplan on piano and a horn introduction with Ron Dziubla on tenor and baritone saxophones and Mark Pender on trumpet. "Surrendered" is a slow burner with Sugaray begging with soaring, gospel-tinged vocals and Kim Wilson's stupendous harmonica solo. The final cut is a Son House tune titled "Preaching Blues" and the jump melody lends itself to Goldwasser's gripping slide guitar with preacher man Sugaray testifying, walkin', and talkin' the blues.
Finally, the blues world has an opportunity to experience the vital raw emotion of Sugaray Rayford. Most articles point out his massive frame, standing all of 6 feet, 5 inches tall, but I would add that his talent matches that and more! This CD is a compelling representation and I predict that there will be much more to come from Sugaray. Meantime, you need to get yourself a copy of this CD and see how good real down deep blues can be...highly recommend this one!
Apres avoir chante pour les autres, ce qui le mena a une deuxieme place au Memphis Blues Challenge de 2006 avec les Aunt Kizzy’s Boys, et a des concerts et des enregistrements avec les Mannish Boys, Sugaray Rayford est en train de se faire un nom a lui tout seul. Pour ce deuxieme album solo (voir SB 201 pour le premier), Delta Groove l’a entoure d’un impressionnant casting, quatre harmonicistes, quatre guitarists, deux clavieristes, deux bassistes, un batteur et une section de cuivres don’t on ne citera pas tous les noms mais qui sont tous des pointures. La voix puissante de Sugaray s’accommode tres bien de cette richesse qui permet de derouler un vaste repertoire. Blues ancient avec Preaching Blues ou Need A Little More Time (un original avec Franck Goldwasser en demonstration a la guitare National), Chicago blues sur Goin’ Back to Texas, R&B cuivre sur Depression Blues, In the Dark, ou When it Rains it Pours, blues contemporain sur les originaux I Might Do Somethin’ Crazy ou Two Times Sugar en duo avec Sugar Ray Norcia. Ce qui fait la reussite du disque est qu’a aucun moment il verse dans la demonstration ou la demagogie. L’orchestration, la production, le talent des musciens et le naturel de Sugaray convainquent sans peine qu’on est dans un universe vecu et coherent. La qualite des originaux signes Chortkoff, Norcia, Goldwasser et Rayford est telle qu’on est surprise, en lisant les notes de pchette, de constater qu’il y en a finalement plus que de reprises (10 sur 14 titres au total)! I’m Dangerous ou Surrendered pourraient par exemple etre des titres meconnus de Muddy Watters. Les Deux titres d’ouverture, Country Boy en shuffle puissant et Stuck for a Buck en ballade boogie blues cuivree, ont de toute facon déjà convaincu: ce disque fera date!
Last week, we told you about some of the great new blues releases coming out in September, a majority of them hitting the shelves this week. Perhaps our favorite of this most recent bunch comes from one from the best blues singers you've likely never heard, in Texas native Sugaray Rayford. Truth be told, we didn't know all that much about Rayford ourselves until he was featured as a vocalist on the latest CD from blues supergroup the Mannish Boys, Double Dynamite. But that performance itself was enough to put the singer on our radar, so we were of course delighted to learn of Rayford's debut album Dangerous on the Delta Groove label, which we're pleased to report very much lives up to - and, in many ways, exceeds - our expectations.
Joined by a collection of guests that range from some of his fellow Mannish Boys to Monster Mike Welch, Kim Wilson, Sugar Ray Norcia, Big Pete, and Kid Andersen, Rayford presents an entertaining and diverse set of blues onDangerous with echoes of such masters as B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters, but all in Rayford's own rich, soulful tones, one of the best blues voices you'll hear today. Indeed, when it comes to the ability to offer such a fresh approach on classic blues sounds, Rayford is rivaled only perhaps by the son of the Hoochie Coochie Man himself, Mud Morganfield.
Though the title and lyrics of the opening song may say country, what Rayford brings on the shuffling "Country Boy" is all blues, his booming voice accompanied by the harmonica of another famous Sugar Ray (as in Sugar Ray Norcia) along with some lively piano from Anthony Geraci. Already, Rayford seems to be having quite a good time, which continues on the swinging, funky original "Stuck for a Buck" that follows, complete with horns from Ron Dziubla on sax and Mark Pender on trumpet in addition to some tight lead guitar from Gino Matteo and organ from Fred Kaplan.
From there, the band moves to the gritty and powerful, Randy Chortkoff-penned title track, a sort of modern-day "Hoochie Coochie Man" that again features Norcia on harp and Geraci on piano while Monster Mike Welch helps keep the rhythm on guitar. Norcia sets down his harmonica to help out on vocals for a song he wrote just for this occasion, the clever, swinging "Two Times Sugar" that's even sweeter with Welch on lead guitar. Rayford's smooth take on the Pee Wee Crayton classic "When It Rains It Pours" is about as fine a slow blues number as you can get, in the vein of, say, Jimmy Witherspoon or T-Bone Walker, with other covers including a superb "Depression Blues" (Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown) and a soulful, swaying "In the Dark" (Junior Parker) - both again buoyed by horns in addition to Kid Andersen on lead guitar, while Chortkoff blows some nice harp on the latter - as well as the stripped-down closer "Preaching Blues" (Son House) that features the Mannish Boys' Franck Goldwasser on slide guitar and Jimi Bott on drums and percussion, along with Bill Stuve on acoustic bass.
Those who enjoyed Rayford's performance of "Death Letter" on the Mannish Boys project will no doubt also appreciate "Pretty Fine Mama" here; with grungy solos from Chortkoff and Welch on harmonica and tremolo guitar, respectively, this and other tracks are every bit on par with the likes of the renowned Phantom Blues Band, while the slow, smoky "Surrendered" could just as easily have come from the catalog of the Rolling Stones (though in fact written by Chortkoff), featuring Goldwasser on guitar and Kim Wilson on harmonica.
Goldwasser switches to slide, again accompanied by Wilson on harp, for the creeping "Goin' Back to Texas," later picking up a National Steel guitar for the mid-tempo acoustic number "Need a Little More Time," where he's joined by Andersen on rhythm guitar and Chortkoff on harmonica. Big Pete steps in on harmonica for the boogeying Goldwasser gem "Keep Her at Home," with another of the disc's highlights coming in the form of the simmering blues and stewing lyrics of "I Might Do Somethin' Crazy".
Like its title, this CD is indeed dangerous, but only for other artists who might be looking to stake a claim to the album of the year honors in the coming year's blues music awards. With blues this powerful, living Dangerously has never sounded more fun!
Here’s a dynamic Delta Groove debut for the big man with the big voice – Sugaray Rayford – originally from Texas, but based in Southern California, and who came to the attention of label boss Randy Chortkoff after an impressive appearance at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, which led to him becoming frontman with The Mannish Boys, and featuring on live shows and also the double album, “Double Dynamite”.
The first release under his own name, “Dangerous”, is a generous 14-track collection of specially written songs and some choice covers, and as ever on a Delta Groove the cast-list is of the highest quality. To name but a few, helping out are Kim Wilson, Franck Goldwasser, Kid Andersen, Sugar Ray Norcia, Bill Stuve, Big Pete, Fred Kaplan and a host more . . . phew! The album was co-produced by Randy Chortkoff and Jeff Scott Fleenor in Shadow Hills, California.
The music, not suprisingly, considering the folk on-board is of the highest quality throughout. Two definite highlights are the songs penned by Sugar Ray Norcia – the opening “Country Boy” and the self-explanatory “”Two Times Sugar”, on which him and ‘ fellow sugar’, Sugaray Rayford share vocals, with some nice piano also by Anthony Geraci; and stinging guitar from ‘Monster’ Mike Welch . . . truly excellent.
The jazzy blues of West Coast master Pee Wee Crayton’s “When It Rains It Pours” takes the pace down’ T-Bone style’, with sweet guitar from Franck Goldwasser and piano from Fred Kaplan, and a dynamite vocal from Sugaray Rayford . . . lovely stuff indeed. Randy Chortkoff’s “Pretty Fine Mama” is a funky blues, driven by his harmonica and a ‘snaky’ guitar motif from Goldwasser. The slow groove of Chortkoff’s “Goin’ Back To Texas” never overstays its welcome at over seven minutes, with Kim Wilson on trademark masterful harmonica, and the song also contains some glorious slide guitar.
Elsewhere a sweet cover of Junior Parker’s “In The Dark” swings in fine style, driven by the horns of Ron Dziubla (saxophone) and Mark Pender (trumpet), and featuring Kid Andersen on lead guitar. Randy Chortkoff also contributes the slow blues of “Surrendered” with tough vocal from Rayford, and more Kim Wilson harmonica and Geraci starrring again on piano.
This great album closes in stomping mood with an uptempo romp through Son House’s “Preaching Blues”, driven by Franck Goldwasser’s slide guitar and the ‘doghouse’ upright bass of Bill Stuve and Jimi Bott’s drums . . . a cracking version of this most oft-covered Son House tune, to end a truly enjoyable solo debut from Sugaray Rayford . . . highly recommended for all blues lovers.
Das von Harper Randy Chortkoff begrundete kalifornische Delta-Groove-Label steht in erster Linie fur jene Art von Old-School-Blues, wie er etwa von der Quasi-Hausband, den Mannish Boys, praktiziert wird. Nun hat mit Caron “Sugaray” Rayford einer der beiden Leadsanger dieser Formation mit Unterstutzung diverser Bandkollegen und Gastmusiker wie Sugar Ray Norcia, Kim Wilson oder Kid Andersen sein Labeldebut unter eigenem Namen vorgelegt und erweist sich darauf nicht nur als ein Bluessanger von ganz grobem Format, sondern bei den drei ihm als Koautor zugeschriebenen Titeln genauso als talentierter Songwriter. Die ansonsten aus der Feder von Chortkoff, Norcia und Mannish-Boys-Gitarrist Franck Goldwasser bzw. Altvorderen wie etwa Son House oder Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown stammenden 14 tracks kommen mal im klassischen Chicago-Blues-Gewand, mal mit Blaserverstarkung daher und bei der Eigenkomposition “Need A Little More Time” kann der geburtige Texaner mit Wohnsitz L.A. zudem unter Beweis stellen, das ser auch in der akkustischen Variante des “Delta Groove” zu Hause ist. Dabei stellt sich an keener Stelle jenes “Alles schon einmal gejort”-Gefuhl ein, das in die sleiche Richtung gehende Produktionen mitunter hervorrufen, vielmehr wird hier einmal mehr der Nachweis erbracht, dass ein uberwiegend auf Zwolftakter setzendes Album sich bei facettenreichen Arrangements und entsprechender Performance eben selbst bei fast 70 Minuten Spieldauer mitnichten als Langweiler erweisen muss. Definitiv nicht nur fur Traditionalisten eine gute Wahl.
Big City Rhythm & Blues
Featured vocalist for Delta Groove’s Mannish Boys blues collective, Texas-born Sugaray Rayford may be a new name to soul-infected blues fans outside of his current Southern California base, nevertheless, he’s a master of both idioms with his powerful, expansively deep and gospel-drenched voice. Accompanied here by some of the Southland’s most compelling talents (including Sugar Ray Norcia, Kim Wilson and guitar virtuoso Franck Goldwasser).
Rayford runs his absorbing way through a mix of classic (a wrenching reworking of Son House’s “Preaching Blues” is here) and current (many of the 14 titles were band composed) numbers – alongside little-known covers like “When it Rains it Pours” (Pee Wee Crayton). “In the Dark” (Little Junior Parker) and Gatemouth Brown’s “Depression Blues.” Personal picks, aside from the three cited, are the apprehensive “Need a Little More Time” (that sounds like a lost Robert Johnson side), a great “walking blues” called “Goin’ Back to Texas,” done a la Memphis Slim, and the Howlin’ Wolf-nasty “I Might Do Something Crazy.” All killer, no filler.
One of the highlights of being a CD reviewer occurs when you start to listen to a recording by a musician that you have never heard of – and they proceed to blow you away with their talent and performances.
And that is exactly what happened with this exciting debut from Caron “Sugaray” Rayford, a mesmerizing singer born in Texas and now living in the Los Angeles area. Sugaray garnered attention as the front man for Aunt Kizzy’s Boyz. The group received second-place honors at the 2006 International Blues Challenge.
His solo recording features twenty-two of the best musicians in the LA area, many of whom Sugaray got to know through hosting a Monday night jam at a Sherman Oaks club with guitarist Chuck Kavooras as the musical director. And right from the start, Sugaray serves notice that his talent can’t be denied. Listen to him dig into the opening track, Al Kooper’s “Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For a Woman Like You)”, his brawny voice shouting out his feelings for the woman of his dreams. Even better is his gritty vocal on the Son House classic, “Death Letter” with Kavooras supplying Ry Cooder-esque riffs on the slide guitar.
Sugaray channels the Little Milton sound on “You Can’t Win for Losing” with a full horn section punctuating the message of keeping your chin up in spite of life’s trials and tribulations. Sugaray wrote the title track with bass man Ralph Carter, It’s another highlight with the leader’s expressive singing dominating the tale of a man caught in the charms of a late-night voo-doo woman. Just as good is his other original, “I Sing The Blues”, as Sugaray recounts his life story over a smoldering arrangement with Kavooras adding another taut guitar solo. The light swing rhythm on “Overnight Sensation” contrasts with the urgency of Sugaray’s vocal, which is softened by Geoff Nudell’s work on the clarinet.
Two cuts are quite brief, with the gospel hymn “I’ve Got to Move” lasting only 46 seconds – and leaves you wishing you could hear the complete performance. Sugaray dedicates “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” to the memory of his late mother. He adds moans and hollers over the eerie slide guitar work from Kavooris. On the ballad “I let Love Slip Thru My Fingers”, the leader’s performance is lacking the extra spark fond on the rest of the disc.
There is no denying that Sugaray has a huge voice and the skill to bend it to his will. With stellar musical accompaniment and a stylistically varied set list, he delivers a performance worthy of award consideration. More importantly, this project is good enough that each of reading this should waste no time in heading to Sugaray’s website to check this one out – it’s that good !!!
Texas born Caron “Sugaray” Rayford began sing- ing in the church, and while he has roots in gospel and soul. In San Diego, he began fronting a funk/R&B band, the Urban Gypsys, but while dabbling in the blues he realized his heart and soul were in this idiom. He started fronting Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz, with whom he made some recordings and competed in the Interna- tional Blues Challenge. Moving a couple years ago to Los Angeles, Sugar Ray hosted up a jam in Sherman Oaks and then hooked up with guitarist Chuck Kavoo- ras whose CK All Stars became the house band for the jam. The house band is a rotating group of musicians who have played with numerous legends, and famous folk like Al Kooper, Slash, Steve Lukather (Toto) and Mike Finnigan have sit in. Sugaray recently issued “Blind Alley” (self-produced) recorded at Kavooras’ Slideaway Studio with a variety of musicians joining them as well as contributing material.
Sugaray is a big man and has an equally powerful voice. The church roots are clearly evident when he sings on a nice varied mix of material. He comes roar- ing on “Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For A Woman Like You),” one of two songs Al Kooper contributed with wailing harp, some blues-rocking guitar and a somewhat busy accompaniment that doesn’t smother his personality. With Kavooras’ stark slide and use of tremolo guitar, Sugar renders a field holler moan on the Blind Willie Johnson recording “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” a performance dedicated to his mother. Sugaray’s strong singing does justice to Son House’s “Death Letter,” which opens with simple hand clapping and tambourine behind Kavooras stark delta groove before the band kicks in and the guitarist rocks out a bit on his solo.
The title track, which Sugaray co-wrote, takes us from updated country blues to an uptown soul-blues with a funky groove, riffing horns, and a vocal that evokes the late Little Milton and Artie ‘Blues Boy’ White. Phil Parlapiano’s piano break adds to this track’s strong appeal. Some nice Albert King styled guitar opens the slow drag groove reworking of B.B. King’s “You Upset Me baby,” that again showcases his ability as a singer as he provides a convincing low-key reading of the lyrics.
Al Kooper’s soulful ballad, “I Let Love Slip Thru My Fingers,” provides an opportunity for him to show another side of his style with some nice saxophone from Jimmy Z. His rendition of a terrific Arthur Adams song, “You Can’t Win For Losing,” is another strong soul-blues performance that evokes classic Little Milton. A short gospel performance with just organ and vocal chorus, “I Got to Move,” is followed by the strong “I Sing The Blues,” about him being raised in the country and his whole life has been a struggle,” set against a moody horn arrangement as he really reaches deep in the gut for his vocal here. “Overnight Sensation” has a jazzy flavor with some nice clarinet from Geoff Nudell while Kavooras is taking a more low-key approach here.
Sugaray Rayford impresses this listener more each time I play “Blind Alley.” Not many singers can take us from the delta to the modern chitlin’ circuit as easily as he does. A big man with a big voice and plenty of personality that makes “Blind Alley” a recording to savor. His website is https://sugarayblues.com/ and this can be purchased at Amazon cdbaby.com. He impressed me enough that I am likely to check out the two discs by Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz that he was vocalist on.
Holler / Colorado Blues Society
It was only a matter of time before word got
out about Southern California’s Caron Rayford, better known as Sugaray.
In recent years, the dapper bluesmant been doing his own seismic
rumble across the sunshine state, especially when his San Diego based
Aunt Kizzy'z Boyz notched second place at the 2006 International Blues Competition.
A few years later, another milestone was reached when
Sugaray relocated to Los Angeles and began hosting a Monday
night blues jam that was frequented by topnotch session men
who had worked with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Steve
Miller to even Kermit the Frog. Among those joining the foray
were rockers Al Kooper and Slash, blues guitarist Hubert
Sumlin and comedian Jim Carey. The experience turned out
to be a networking paradise and as a result, Sugaray's music
director/guitarist Chuck Kavooras had plenty of talent (a total
of 22 musicians/vocalists) to surround his husky, emotive vocalist
for his solo debut.
Whether it's rompin Chicago blues, Memphis Stax-powered
soul, scorching Texas blues or New Orleans-tinged jazz,
Sugaray fields whatever’s his way with confident versatility.
The 7 minute title track is the disc’s crown jewel - infectious
steamy horns, hypnotizing grooves and a building sense
of intrigue. the rendition of B. B. Kings' "You Upset Me Baby''
differs radically from the original; with slow, grinding funk
much like Albert King's rendition on his King Albert Ip. Son
House’s "Death Letter" is amped up with thunderous beats
and Kavooras' blistering leads. If there's any doubt remaining
regarding Sugarays vocals, "I Let Love Slip Through My Fingers"
(one of two Kooper compositions featured here) settles
it. Here, the mammoth of a man really stretches out on the
beautiful tender ballad, unleashing terrific, quaking vibrato
and infinite conviction that can only be a serious outcropping
of a gospel background. Worth checking out.
In a nutshell, "pure old- time blues." Sugaray, born Caron Rayford, has a strong, soulful, bluesy voice. His CD, "Blind Alley," will have you swaying and bouncing . My only problem with the CD is that he only does a couple originals. They are good "Blind Alley" and "I sing the Blues." The title song, "Blind Alley," features some nice horns and soulful background vocals. I want more from him! That aside, I love this CD. He is a big Al Kooper fan (me, too). He does 2 Kooper tunes, including the opening song, "Nuthin I Wouldn't Do ( For a Woman Like You)." He does a wonderful cover here. Nice harmonica and vocals with great lyrics."I'd fight dragons with a toothpick just to prove to you I care."
He also does covers ( very well by the way) of Son House's "Death Letter Blues, "B.B. King's "You Upset Me Baby," Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night" and Arthur Adams "You Can't Win For Losing." Also, he shows his strong vocal ability on "I've got to Move "( be it brief).
This CD doesn't lack anything. It has dark, soulful blues and lively, bouncy tunes. People have complained that most of today's newer blues artists are mostly derivations of blues... Blues/Rock, Texas/ Blues and so forth. THIS IS BLUES ! I have suggested that people get CDSs before- this one you MUST buy! ~ Don Vecchio
Sugaray - Blind Alley
10 Songs; 40:35 Minutes; Suggested
Styles: Soul, Blues, Gospel
For me, experiencing Sugaray’s wonderful, debut solo album has been a study of the Propinquity Effect. Explained by the Mere Exposure Effect, it holds that the more exposure a stimulus gets, the more likeable it becomes. For example, people generally like a song (or album) more after they have heard it a few times. After a few listens, this CD became very“likeable” to me. However, I first found, and still find, the first fifteen seconds of the first song to be startle reflex style nerve grating.
I can imagine an overly busy radio programmer or reviewer popping in a CD and listening to the first song. Upon hearing an opening of harsh cacophony, that person throws it in the trash and hollers, “Next.” That approach would be totally unfair, but, I am thinking, not unrealistic in this age of sensory and CD overload. Trashing the balance of this album would be tragic because it is chock full of exceptional artistry.
Texas born Caron “Sugaray” Rayford is a big man (6” 5”) with an equally big voice that superbly echoes Muddy Waters and Otis Redding. Growing up in Gospel and Soul, he switched to contemporary music in the San Diego area, singing lead vocals with Urban Gypsys. Soon giving his heart and soul to Blues, he next became lead vocalist for Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz, a Temecula CA Blues band. Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz won second place in Memphis 2006 at the International Blues Challenge.
After moving to Los Angeles, Sugaray met and played with innumerable world-class musicians. His solo career has flourished in LA, and he has done studio vocals on several projects. He has partnered with Chuck Kavooras, a long time LA guitarist and owner of Slide Away Studios who booked artists around Sugaray’s vocals. Kavooras produced and recorded this debut solo project. Sugaray states, “I am so grateful for the high caliber of talent [22 guest artists] that has played on this project.”
Each successive listen revealed the intricate layers of different genres and woven tapestry of diverse and exciting sounds behind Sugaray’s skilled singing adaptations. “Blind Alley’s"” ten songs feature two co-written by Sugaray, “Blind Alley” (Ralph Carter/ Rayford) and “I Sing the Blues” (Sugaray/Chuck Kavooras). It also contains a splendid collection of eight covers by Al Kooper, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, B.B. King, Arthur Adams, and Joe Gorfinkle.
True deep Blues moments are found on tracks two and three, “Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” and “Death Letter.” Audibly dedicated to Rayford’s late mother, the former features Chuck Kavooras on slide guitar with Sugaray moaning Gospel sorrow. After two minutes, a heart wrenching version of Son House’s "Death Letter" follows with Kavooras adding the best slide guitar since Jack White’s version.
“Blind Alley, the Soulful title, is a great Voo-Doo woman story. At seven minutes plus, this killer is laced with layers of keyboards, sax, trumpet, guitars, and backup vocals.
I swear I hear beautiful Beatles influences in Rayford’s slow and smooth version of Al Kooper’s “I Let love Slip Thru My Fingers.”
As fine of a Blues song as you’d ever want to hear is the slow and intricate “I Sing the Blues.” Sugaray co-wrote it with Kavooras, and once again it features a great lineup of musicians.
For his debut, Sugaray has split the uprights from 55 yards back! This CD is just loaded with wonderful sounds and music, more appreciated with each listen.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Praise the Blues, Hallelujah!
Do you love unexpected happenings as much as I do? Ever have your boss give you a raise “just because”? Did your wife ever surprise you guys with a bunch of flowers? Well, when I first sized up this disc and saw that the songs were mostly covers from Al Kooper, B.B. King, Arthur Adams, Son House, and others, I was a little hesitant. Then I realized I’d been given a blues gift when my ears were opened up by the sounds coming out of the speakers. What a loud joyous noise!
Sugaray is a Texas gospel man that moved to San Diego and got the blues. Even with all that sun and fun, you can still get down and out. Some of you may know him as the singer from R&B outfit Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz, who took second place at the International Blues Challenge in 2006. Since then he headed north to Los Angeles and left the rhythm behind to focus on the blues.
This is his first solo album, and he is backed by musicians who have been staring at some of the biggest-named behinds in the business. Springsteen, Eddie Money, John Mayall, Vanilla Fudge, Bruce Hornsby, The Temptations, and Steve Miller all have had these guys backing them. So you get an idea of the pedigree here. This is some serious stuff. They come together like a strong support group helping a new member.
Sugaray could do the public address at a sporting event without a microphone. His voice is that big. So naturally the band needed to step up to the plate, and they hit a dinger here with some hard-driving original rhythms. The rhythms are the audience and Sugaray is the preacher on the album. You know how they say you can change gospel music and R&B by changing the topic from God to women? Well, this album is close to that. Although it is a deeper shade of blue than any gospel album.
Blind Alley starts off at its brightest moment with Al Kooper’s “Nothin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For a Woman Like You).” The song is strong, upbeat, and contagious. You are hooked from the beginning. A brilliant pick for the first song. As soon as I hit play I knew the album is going to keep playing until the end.
Then the second song is quietly introduced as a dedication to his mother who passed away. “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” clocks in at 1:50, with Chuck Kavooras playing a haunting guitar part and Sugaray moaning through the song. It’s an amazing piece that you have to hear. Now that the hairs on the back of your neck are on end, Kavooras rips into Son House’s “Death Letter.” I think this song is on the overdone list, but this version didn’t do me in. The gritty slide guitar gives it a great attitude, and Sugaray just might come to tears by the end of the song if it goes on any longer.
The rest of the album blends the gospel, funk, and blues sounds into a wall of sound. The horns riff through the original “Blind Alley” with the subtle accents of the female backup singers at just the right moments. Even clocking in at a hefty 7:22 you wouldn’t mind taking a U-turn and doing it all over again. If you need a healin’ cue up “You Can’t Win for Losin’.” It’s about those dog days we all have, but Sugaray’s delivery is so upbeat your spirits are up in the clouds with angels while this song is on.
There are big voices in the world, and Sugaray is one left standing after a ten-round fight. He has a band that is expressive as a Van Gogh and just as thick in texture. And if you want to know how blue they can get, Sugaray will tell you in “I Sing the Blues.”