Red House Records – 2014
3 CD retrospective, total running time: 213 minutes
Minnesota’s Dave ‘Snaker’ Ray was an acoustic guitarist and singer who is probably best remembered for his role in the Koerner, Ray & Glover trio whose music was enjoyed by as diverse a group of musicians as Bowie, Lennon and Beck, all of whom cited the trio as an influence. Dave passed away in 2002 but his legacy is well represented here by former collaborator and close friend Tony Glover. Both tribute to his lost colleague and labour of love, Tony has assembled material from right across Dave’s career, drawn mainly from unreleased recordings as well as some tracks taken from out of print and difficult to find albums. The material is “rare and unreleased recordings from 1962 – 2002” which are predominantly solo or duo material and is accompanied by a well-written and informative booklet of 32 pages in which Tony presents his friend’s legacy.
CD1 1962 – 1987: 16 tracks; 70 minutes.
The first few tracks date back to recordings made in Dave’s parents’ basement, Dave solo on material from Leadbelly, the Carter Family and Leroy Carr. Leadbelly was clearly an early influence, Tony recalling his first meeting with Dave when he was amazed to find a young white guy playing Leadbelly music. As Tony was equally as keen on Sonny Terry harp riffs the two immediately bonded! The two’s duo style is well represented by the rest of the first CD, ranging across material from Muddy Waters, Blind Blake, Sleepy John Estes and Skip James to less likely sources such as Rufus Thomas’ “Walking The Dog”, a song that Dave played frequently throughout his career. Some of the early material is relatively lo-fi, notably Dave’s improvisation around a Robert Johnson tune entitled “Hot Rod Terraplane”, recorded by a fan and fellow motor-head at a live show in 1963.
CD2 1998 – 1994: 22 tracks; 72 minutes
This CD represents a far shorter period but a very productive one for Dave and Tony with four album releases in those eight years. Generally the sound quality is far better than on Disc 1, unsurprisingly given the age of the earliest recordings and the advances made in recording techniques in the intervening 26 years! The music on Disc 2 is almost entirely duo performances with a good selection of well-known tunes. Highlights include a rare slide outing for Dave on a live version of Muddy’s “Can’t Be Satisfied” and a sprightly “Statesboro’ Blues” that reminds us that the tune had a life before Duane Allman got hold of it. Tony notes that the duo were vehemently opposed to the digital age at the time, adding an EP to the vinyl LP but refusing to put those EP tunes on the CD version, an omission rectified here with Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues” one of the ‘lost’ tunes. Primary influence Leadbelly reappears with “Fort Worth And Dallas”, alongside Jimmy Reed, Yank Rachell and Memphis Minnie. The final track on Disc 2 is a band recording by a short-lived ensemble Three Bedroom Ramblers (Dave, John Beach on keys and Kory Baderischer on drums) and it is something of a shock to hear Dave playing electric in a band setting (and doing so very well).
CD3 1995 – 2002:18 tracks; 71 minutes
The final CD represents a more diverse range of recordings from Dave, including several band numbers. However, the CD opens with four duo outtakes from a long out-of-print album “One Foot In The Groove”; Tony’s harp is particularly good on Tommy McLennan’s “Shake’Em On Down”. Dave demonstrates his versatility with a bluegrass tune – Bill Monroe’s “With Body And Soul” – which did make the album. Dave was clearly ready and willing to take on any musical challenge as witnessed by “Radio Spot”, a commercial recorded for a department store! Two outtakes from an album made by the Back Porch Rockers (Dave, Tony, Camille Badouin, guitar, Reggie Scanlan, bass) provide the contrast of a Percy Sledge ballad and Slim Harpo’s “Got Loving If You Want It”. A further combo of Dave, Jeff Dagenhardt on guitar and David Kasik on bass was called 6L6 and provides a couple of tracks from an album entitled “A Hollowbody Experience” including a solid version of Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now”. Towards the end of his life Dave’s struggle with lung cancer caused him problems at gigs but the two tracks taken from his last local show on November 2, 2002, demonstrate that he was still making good music, here in conjunction with Geoff Muldaur on “So Glad I’m Living” (Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup) and solo on his own “Almost As If”. Both songs sound particularly poignant knowing that these would be his last recordings. The retrospective closes with the only example of a tune being out of chronological order as Dave is found solo on “If It’s Really Got To Be This Way” (Donnie Fritts, Gary Nicholson, Arthur Alexander), a cover released on the 1997 album “Snake Eyes”, a really beautiful finale.
Tony Glover has done a fine job of paying tribute to Dave’s music in this well presented collection which will definitely appeal to all lovers of acoustic blues. In the sleevenotes Tony hints at the possibility of a further release of band recordings, so Dave’s legacy may not yet be complete.