Azuretone Records – 2014
12 tracks; 76 minutes
Ray Fuller hails from Ohio and has been round the block a few times since he started playing professionally in the 70’s. The Bluesrockers have existed since 1978 and have issued several albums, including a live one back in 1992. However, with a new management deal and keen to spread his rocking slide guitar style to as wide an audience as possible, a live album recorded at Legends seems a good place to start.
The material is a straight split between originals and covers, with several well-known tunes included. The band here is Ray on guitar and vocals, Keith Blair on keys, Glen Manuel on bass, Mark Ward on drums and guest Richard ‘Doc’ Malone on harp.
The general feel of the music could be summed up by a quote from “Guitar Magazine” – “Sounds like Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor tempered with the rowdiness of George Thorogood”. Indeed, EJ is the source of “Wild About You Baby”, a sound choice to open the show as Ray shows us his slide chops. The original “Rock N’ Roll Cowboy” is great fun, centred on a boogie guitar riff with plenty of piano and some amusing lyrics: “Put your red dress on, baby, let’s kick up dust, I gotta keep moving so my spurs don’t rust. I’m a rock n’ roll cowboy, roll with me, baby, till the cows come home. Put one leg up, one leg down, set your tail in the saddle, honey, shake it around.”
John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” is suitably menacing in an extended version and Ray’s “Love And Alcohol” ploughs a similar furrow in a tale of two subjects that do not mix well, both cuts giving plenty of solo opportunities for all three main instrumentalists. “Bayou Blue” changes the focus with a riff that sounds like it comes from the CCR songbook, a song that heads down south to a world of ‘voodoo, creole lands, mojo hands and one room country shacks’ with some striking piano.
Ray announces that “Walkin’ Shoes” was the first song he ever wrote and it rocks along well with Keith’s Hammond underpinning some good slide work from Ray, the whole propelled by the dynamic work of the rhythm section.
Ray was first influenced by the British invasion and in particular John Mayall so that may be where he first heard “So Many Roads”, a song always associated with Otis Rush. The band’s version is respectful and offers solo opportunities to everyone, but their version lacks some of the sad feel of Otis’ original.
Two more covers follow with “Take Out Some Insurance Baby” (Singleton/Hall), notably covered by Jimmy Reed and Billy Boy Arnold’s “Rockinitus”, the former chugging along in classic JR mode, the latter using the same core riff as the more famous “I Ain’t Got You”. Two originals follow, both upbeat numbers as the show builds to its climax: “Feelin’ Evil” brings Ray’s slide out for some torrid riffing alongside some brooding harp work from Doc Malone; “Sallie Mae” is centred upon a Bo Diddley riff and moves along well before Eddie Clearwater’s “I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down” makes a catchy rocker to finish.
Whilst there is nothing particularly distinctive about Ray and his band this generously filled CD demonstrates that they must make for a good evening of rocking blues if you get the chance to see them live. A solid set of enjoyable blues and rock and roll.