Sugaray Rayford - ‘Somebody Save Me’ (Forty Below Records)
Add Date: 02/26/2019
Americana Focus Tracks: 3, 5, & 6
College Focus Tracks: 1, 3, & 2
Triple A Focus Tracks: 1, 3, & 5
Formats: Americana, College, & Triple A
Artist Info: On March 1st, Forty Below Records will release Somebody Save Me the new studio album from Texas-born soul blues singer, Sugaray Rayford. On the album’s opening track, “The Revelator”, Rayford forcefully sings, “I’m a freak of nature / I ain’t no honey bee / I’m an unknown creature / The like you’ve never seen.” At 6’5” and 300 pounds, this cigar chompin’ ex-Marine with a voice like a force of nature holds court in any room he enters. Possessing a magnetic personality, and an old school vocal style that echoes Muddy Waters, Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass, Rayford is also a stellar dancer with moves reminiscent of the Legendary James Brown.
Somebody Save Me is an ambitious album that slides gracefully between the new blues of Gary Clarke Jr. and Fantastic Negrito, the rock & soul styling’s of The War & Treaty and the vintage Daptones soul of the late Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, bringing a fresh take to classic sounds.
The album was written and produced by Forty Below Records founder Eric Corne. Best known for his work with blues legends John Mayall and Walter Trout, Corne and Forty Below have also launched the careers of several talented new artists, such as Sam Morrow, Jaime Wyatt and KaiL Baxley. A number of mainstays from Corne productions feature strongly here including guitarist Rick Holmstrom (Mavis Staples), bassist Taras Prodaniuk (Dwight Yoakam), drummer Matt Tecu (Jakob Dylan), keyboardist Sasha Smith (Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop), guitarist Eamon Ryland (The Happy Mondays) and the horn section from Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Corne recorded the bulk of the record live and the chemistry of the performances infuses the songs with a spontaneity and raw emotion.
The ten songs on the album explore contrasting themes of darkness and light. There is social commentary like on “Time to Get Movin’” “The mansions on the hillside / Look down on homeless camps / While we’re caught in the crossfire / Lookin’ for the exit ramps”. There are several love songs, including two gorgeous soul ballads, “My Cards are on the Table” and “Somebody Save Me”, the Stax inspired “You and I” and the more Motown leaning “Is It Just Me”, “She could bring peace to the Middle East / They’d be ready to sign / Free the worst villain / From the tightest prison / And have the warden waving goodbye”.
The album is full of inspired arrangements with several unexpected twists and turns; like the John Barry (James Bond) inspired bridge of “Angels and Devils”; the wobbly 1950s inspired keyboard solo and lush strings of the title track, recorded with The Section Quartet (Ryan Adams, Father John Misty); and the gospel choir, shape-shifting keyboards and dramatic horns of “The Revelator” which seamlessly blends blues, soul and jazz with a hint of reggae. But at the center if it all is Sugaray Rayford’s commanding voice, tying it all together.
Rayford began his musical career at the tender age of seven, singing and playing drums in church, and his gospel influences definitely shine through in his music. The soulful rasp and emotive vocal style hint at his first-hand experience with hardship, and a childhood marked by poverty and loss.
“I remember a sad game I used to play with my brothers, a competition that determined who was skinniest by counting the number of belt holes left unused,” recalls Rayford.
His mother struggled to raise three boys alone while battling cancer. "She suffered and we suffered," Rayford says. "Then, we moved in with my grandmother and our lives improved. We ate every day and we were in church every day, which I loved. I grew up in gospel and soul.”
As front-man of The Mannish Boys, Rayford and the band won the Blues Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2013 and Rayford himself has been nominated for over a dozen BMA’s, including Vocalist of the Year multiple nominations for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.
With his 8-piece crack band and personal charm, Rayford’s live shows are quickly becoming renown for their high-energy and celebratory nature, with Rayford whipping the crowds into a frenzy, like a Gospel Preacher. In the studio and in person, Sugaray Rayford is developing a reputation as a force to be reckoned with and an artist to watch in the coming years.