Red House Records – 2014
10 tracks; 38 minutes
Ray Bonneville did not record until he was in his 40’s but since then he has issued eight albums, the latest of which, “Easy Gone”, makes for a pleasant, late night listening experience. Born in Quebec, raised in Boston, Ray has lived in many places since and currently calls Austin, Texas, home. This CD was recorded there with a small set of musicians: Ray plays guitar, harp and sings, Gurf Morlix plays bass and Geoff Arsenault drums. Mark Norvel and Eliza Gilkyson add backing vocals to one track each and on two tracks Ray is backed by Will Sexton on bass, Rick Richards on drums and Richie Lawrence on piano. There are nine originals and one Hank Williams cover.
Several of the songs here suggest rather than state what Ray is talking about, leaving the listener to paint in some of the facts for themselves. The album opens with the moody “Who Do Call The Shots” with lyrics that talk of a “…dark road on this no mercy night”. Shimmering guitar and background harp buzz introduce “Shake Off My Blues” which has a catchy refrain on the chorus. “Love Is Wicked” is a tale of suspicions – “A perfume on his coat made her look for the lies he told” – and a tragic ending “…firecrackers the neighbours said, the floor pooling up red”. “When I Get To New York” is slightly more uptempo but on a similar theme – “my mind has been crawling with a poisonous doubt” – so he is heading for NYC to check up on his girl.
Ray’s voice is aptly described as being like JJ Cale but there is also some similarity with later period Dylan on tracks like “Where Has My Easy Gone”, a song on which Ray adds some nice guitar above the gentle rhythm and, in particular, “Lone Freighter’s Wail”, an excellent song that is probably the best of the set here. “I am the lone freighter’s wail, echoing on my way. I wail for the old man alone on the porch looking back on what is no more” sings Ray and backs that up with his harmonica making some very lonesome sounds. “South Little One” is a quiet plea for his girl to come along on a train trip south whilst “Mile Marker 41” is a heavier cut with an oblique lyric that perhaps suggests smuggling or even something darker. “Two Bends In The Road” closes the album with Ray solo on guitar singing of the distance between him and his love. The cover of Hank Williams’ “So Lonesome I Could Cry” is one of the ‘heavier’ tracks here with plenty of Ray’s distinctive ‘buzzing’ harp sounds.
Not the easiest CD to summarise for readers and this album is certainly more Americana than blues but the combination of Ray’s world-weary voice, relaxed playing and interesting songs still brings something to the table for the average blues fan.