Ray Cashman – Houston Electric
11 songs – 42 minutes
Houston Electric is Texas singer-guitarist-songwriter Ray Cashman’s seventh album and is a raucous collection of hard-driving blues-rock played with joyous abandon. Featuring 11 self-penned tracks, this is the sort of album that provides a perfect accompaniment to a long road trip.
Opening with the mid-paced stomp of “Feet On The Ground”, Cashman’s gritty, overdriven slide guitar fits naturally with his weathered, almost gnarled voice. His band are first rate, with Manuel Perez in particular laying down an irresistible rhythm on drums, together with Patrick Neifert on bass and guitar and Gary Belin on backing vocals.
In the upbeat primal rock’n’roll of “Good Times”, Cashman’s voice takes on some of the yodelling vulnerability of Phil Alvin, with some suitably wild guitar giving the song a hint of the Black Crowes as Cashman humorously warns about the dangers of hard living and how “the good times never last”. The pace slows slightly for “Devil’s Smile” where Cashman’s outstanding guitar slides just on and off the beat, giving the song real life, while the stuttering guitar riff of “Fire Dance” has echoes of the British blues-rock giants of the late 1960s.
Produced by Belin and Cashman and engineered and mastered by Belin at the Rock Shed in Houston, Texas, the songs on Houston Electric are primarily based around guitar riffs, but invariably contain something unusual to retain the listener’s attention. On “Electric Pistol”, for example, Cashman pulls out a wildly arresting guitar solo mid-song. In “Domino”, the opening single notes of an acoustic guitar are rapidly overtaken by a single repeated echoed chord and there is an unexpected chordal middle-eight rather than a guitar solo. Cashman pulls out the slide guitar again for “Pickle Juice” and the slower “Full Moon Over Orlean” (which also includes some beautiful piano from guest Anderson Braun), while the Springsteen-esque “Hard Way” contains a lovely guitar solo that is striking for the cleanness of its tone, in contrast to Cashman’s tone on the other tracks.
“Reefer Headed Woman” emphasizes Cashman’s clever lyrics as the protagonist wryly notes the physical benefits he gets from his mellow lady friend. The track also contains some more outstanding slide guitar. The closing track, “Millionaire”, is based around a strummed acoustic guitar over which an electric guitar picks out single note arpeggios.
With its distorted guitars, riff-based songs and in-your-face attitude, Houston Electric is very much a blues-rock album rather than pure blues, but it is played with such technical facility, muscular confidence and unabashed joy that it is very hard not to enjoy it. And if your tastes lean towards the heavier side of blues-rock spectrum, you will definitely want to check it out. A rather impressive release.