Sugaray Rayford wants you to know his shows aren’t for eating cheese and drinking wine. They are raucous experiences, a celebration of music, dancing and good times. He refuses to call his shows “concerts,” preferring to talk about them as parties. Semantics aside, it’s hard to deny that Rayford’s brand of soulful electric blues is anything but infectious. His church-honed vocals have unquestionable gospel influences, infusing his music with a certain sincerity that is increasingly harder to find. Rayford’s latest musical brainchild, The World That We Live In, marks his fourth album released and might just be his most intimate project yet.
Big buzz on this from our editor in chief, Steve Williams, so you have to pay attention immediately and quite rightly too, from the outset this is serious black soul music with hints of the blues, not one for the faint hearted this.
So you think you’re into soul music, well this will put you to the test with real instruments, a voice that sounds like it’s been nurtured in smoke-filled, whiskey fuelled bars for decades, not unlike Little Milton in places which is right up my street. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a brand new 2017 release, and not some unissued album from back in the day. Of course, if like me you search for new product on a daily basis, then the fruits of your labour are there, St, Paul & The Broken Bones, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields etc. Well Sugaray is now sharing the stage with these icons. I kid you not.
Blues with a whole lotta Soul would describe the stylings of Texas native Caron 'Sugaray' Rayford. He is a big guy with a very big voice who was a featured vocalist on the award winning Mannish Boys album Double Dynamite in 2012. This led to Sugaray's 2013 album release, Dangerous, consisting of 14 tracks of a combination of covers and original material. Some big name artists contributed to the album, including the Fabulous Thunderbird's Kim Wilson and Sugar Ray Norcia. There is a mixture of down home slide guitar and harmonica tracks together with progressive grooves such as Two Times Sugar, Stuck For A Buck and the rockin' Keep Your Woman At Home. Sugaray now calls Southern California home, spending several years in San Diego before moving to Los Angeles. He has fronted his own band for the last 5 years.
The success of Dangerous has led to the just released Rayford follow up entitled Southside, containing 9 boisterous Sugarray tunes. The title track, not the same song as the 2014 Grady Champion hit, does fit the Southern Soul mold. So does All I Think About, which would be a huge smash in a live festival venue. Live To Love Again is a straight ahead Soul filled groove that is a good candidate for our July chart. Call Off The Mission has some Robert Cray sounding licks in it. Rayford reverts back to his skill in traditional old style Blues on Take It To The Bank, Texas Bluesman and the slow and low Take Away These Blues. I like Sugaray's style and predict more good things in the future for his promising career!
September 13, 2013 Mark Thompson
Dorothy L. Hill
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!
Dans une formation quasi équivalente, un trombone remplaçant le saxophone baryton, le groupe de Sugaray Rayford investit la scène et envoie une introduction funky avec un gros son qui promet. Sugaray les rejoint vite, masquant une bonne partie des projecteurs avec son physique impressionnant. L’homme est une bête de scène, dynamique, joueur – ah ce gimmick de faire recommencer l’intro d’un morceau par l’orchestre ! –, communicatif, charmeur, et surtout un sacré chanteur. Voilà une voix qui porte, prend aux tripes, rompue aux traditions blues, soul, dans le micro ou a cappella, et rend crédible un répertoire composite avec Cold sweat, I’ll play the blues for you, Depression blues, Need a little more time, Death letter blues, The hunter. Des reprises variées donc et des originaux, dont deux joués en acoustique, deux guitares, un tambourin, pas de micro, séquence émotion, avant de repartir instantanément à plein régime avec l’orchestre. L’organiste est ultra churchy, le guitariste Gino Matteo est efficace, parfois bavard, au sens rock du terme, les cuivres sont à tomber par terre, et Sugaray passe des uns aux autres, descend dans la salle, remonte sur scène, pousse, incite, provoque, autant les musiciens que lui-même, et par voie de conséquence le public, qui savourera le final quand Sugaray fera monter Juke et Karl W. Davis sur scène.
À la sortie, la vue des anneaux de Buren et des lumières de Nantes prolonge la magie.
Le public de la scène blues ne le sait pas encore mais il va vivre un des plus grands concerts qui y ait jamais eu lieu. Sugaray Rayford va en effet prendre Nantes d’assaut et ne plus rien lâcher de la soirée. En costume bleu sombre rayé et T-shirt blanc, il en impose mais son visage souriant montre que c’est le partage qu’il recherche, pas l’affrontement. Après quelques notes, il présente Gino Matteo à la guitare, Ralph Carter à la basse, Lavell Jones à la batterie et Cédric Le Goff à l’orgue, puis met son corps en mouvement, métronome d’un show en forme de tornade qui emporte le public dans le répertoire de ses disques, notamment “Dangerous” et “Southside”, agrémenté de reprises choisies comme ce Crosscut saw qui le fait descendre dans la foule où il reste dix minutes ou ce I’ll play the blues for you, une proposition que le public accepte avec plaisir, tout comme il tend les mains pour attraper les colliers que Sugaray lui lance en cadeau. Le traditionnel intermède de milieu de show voit Gino Matteo rester en électrique plutôt que passer en acoustique et voit aussi Guillaume Robin, harmoniciste du groupe Mister Joss monter sur scène. La reprise se fait avec Call me to sleep et un énorme solo de batterie de Lavell Jones. L’introduction de Gino Matteo sur le Worry, worry qui suit est à grimper aux arbres. Tout a une fin et le rappel Driving wheel nous laisse sur orbite, sans aucune envie de redescendre sur terre.
The Blues Foundation has announced the nominations for the next edition of its Blues Music Awards, set to again take place in Memphis in early May. Sugaray Rayford is up for awards in the contemporary male, song (“Southside of Town”), contemporary album (Southside), and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year categories.
November 25, 2013
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.
Von Michael Seiz
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
Gary von Tersch
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 !!!
Blind Alley Review by Ron Weinstock
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 http://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.
Dangerous review by Ron Weinstock
I was familiar with Caron ‘Sugaray’ Rayford prior to his joining The Manish Boys. About his self-produced debut album “Blind Alley,” I observed, “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.”
He can be heard on “Double Dynamite,” the most recent recording by The Manish Boys where he shared vocal duties with Finis Tasby. With Tasby’s recent health problems, Sugaray Rayford has become the primary vocalist for the rotating talent that play in that group.
Delta Groove has just released the label’s first release by Sugaray Rayford, “Dangerous.” Producer Randy Chortkoff has brought together an impressive group of supporting players including harmonica players Sugar Ray Norcia, Kim Wilson, Big Pete and Chortkoff himself; guitarists Kid Andersen, Franck Goldwasser; Gino Matteo and Monster Mike Welch; keyboardists Anthony Geraci and Fred Kaplan; bassists Willie C. Campbell and Bill Stuve; and drummer Jimi Bott. Several tracks have the horns of saxophonist Ron Dziubla and trumpeter Mark Pender. This is a first-rate studio band to back Sugaray’s vocals.
There is a nice mix of material from the Chicago blues shuffle that Sugar Ray Norcia penned, “Country Boy,” a song reminiscent of Dave Bartholomew’s similarly titled track, which sports Norcia’s harp as well. Sugaray and Norcia trade vocals on Norcia’s amusing “Two Times Sugar” with Monster Mike superb here.
Sugaray’s “Stuck For a Buck” is an amusing uptown number as his woman has maxed out his credit cards with punchy horns. Chortkoff contributed “I’m Dangerous,” a fine lyric that evokes Muddy Waters (especially Muddy’s recording “Evil”) as Rayford shouts that he is a natural born lover. “Going Back To Texas” is another fine Muddy Waters styled number with a melody that goes at least back to Otis Spann’s “Hungry Country Girl” that the great pianist recorded with Fleetwood Mac.
Goldwasser channels T-Bone Walker on the excellent rendition of Pee Wee Crayton’s “When it Rains It Pours” as Sugaray gives a wonderfully nuanced vocal while he shouts out Gatemouth Brown’s “Depression Blues,” with some terrifically slashing guitar in themanner of fifties Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson from Kid Andersen. Andersen and Chortkoff also shine backing Sugaray on the cover of Junior Parker’s “In The Dark.”
Closing out “Dangerous” is a rendition of Son House’s “Preaching Blues” with some nice slide guitar from Goldwasser. It is an interesting and enjoyable performance, if not completely successful to these ears. It does not diminish the overall excellence of the blues heard here.
Sugaray Rayford is such an impressive singer, and with excellent material and the superb backing band, “Dangerous” is another terrific album from a gentleman who is quickly solidifying a place in the upper ranks of blues singers today.
Southside review by Ron Weinstock
The Texas born, California-based Rayford impressed many with his excellent blues debut “Blind Alley” a few years back. Then he had a terrific followup on Delta Groove, “Dangerous,” as well as fronted the Delta Groove blues revue in a band, The Mannish Boys.“ With gospel roots, he brings a soulful approach to a range of material to his latest recording, ”Southside’ (NimoySue Records). Produced by Rayford, the nine songs here are all Rayford originals (Eight in collaboration with bassist and co-producer Ralph Carter).
Besides Carter, the backing band includes guitarist Gino Matteo, drummer Lavell Jones, tenor saxophonist Allan Walker, trumpeter Gary Bivona and keyboardist Leo Dombecki. Guest artists include Bob Corritore, who contributes harmonica to one selection.
Rayford continues to display a rare command as a vocalist, with one suggesting an apt comparison mightbe the late Little Milton and/or Artie ‘Blues Boy’ White,who is able to take us to the “Southside of Town” wherewe can get down; celebrate his heritage as “TexasBluesman” while acknowledging some of his fellowTexas blues legends; or spin a tale about watching“Miss Thang” as she walks down the street looking likea fishing boat in a very, very rough sea.“ He can makea transition from the hard driving, horn driven bandblues to the acoustic song, where he sings his love isguaranteed and she can ”Take It To The Bank,“ withnice slide guitar and harmonica. ”Take Away TheseBlues” is a marvelous moody performance with someof Matteo’s most nuanced playing with the horns addingtheir accents here.
A soul-blues, “Slow Motion” has a terrific vocal displaying Rayford’s nuanced singing that is superbly backed. It is a terrific closing track to another auspicious release by Sugaray Rayford. He continues to provide us with strong and varied material and has emerged as one of today’s leading blues and traditional soul singers. Highly recommended.
Holler / Colorado Blues Society
September 01, 2011
SUGARAY - BLIND ALLEY
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.
April 04, 2011
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
December 30, 2010
James "Skyy Dobro" Walker
Sugaray - Blind Alley
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
April 28, 2011
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.”