Ray Cashman – Palmetto & Pine | Album Review

Ray Cashman – Palmetto & Pine

Pistol Blues Productions

11 songs – 38 minutes


Ray Cashman has been holed up at home in Sam Houston National Forest outside of Montgomery, Texas, because of coronavirus for the better part of the past year, but that hasn’t stopped the veteran blues-rocker from delivering this rollicking paean to the hard-working folks toiling in the oil fields of the Gulf Coast.

A 20-year veteran of the Austin and Nashville scenes, Cashman has been making waves since 2007, when he released Texassippi Stomp, a disc that featured contributions from Squirrel Nut Zippers founder and former Buddy Guy bandmate Jimbo Mathus in the lineup. The Texas native delivers a musical gumbo that features a light, single-note attack on guitar and tunes that range from Gulf Coast two-steps to high-energy rock and a taste of Chicago blues, too.

A frequent festival performer at events that have included South By Southwest and Mississippi’s Juke Joint Festival and Deep Blues Festival, he’s a fan favorite in Europe, where he was booked for two festivals and eight other gigs when the shutdown occurred.

Recorded at The Rock Shed in Houston under the direction of co-producer Gary Belin, who shares vocals, this disc is the eighth in Cashman’s catalog and a follow-up to Houston Electric, which charted as high as No. 3 on the Roots Music Report’s electric blues listings. He’s backed here by Pat Neifert on guitar and bass, Grant “Gabby” Brown on harmonica and Manuel Perez on drums.

The set of nine originals and two covers opens with “Lafayette,” a driving rocker that delivers a tip of the Stetson to Ray’s neighbors across the Louisiana border, where folks dance “until they’re soakin’ wet,”  fill up on crawfish pie, get down to zydeco and roll their own cigarettes. “Rainfall,” a loping blues with Texas feel, finds Cashman watching the puddles pool on the ground as he sits alone and “missing you, somethin’ I can’t do” – something that takes on different meaning in the current world situation. The flashy fretwork of the opener yields to sweet, single-note runs.

The swamp rocker “Palmetto & Pine” pays tribute to the land Ray’s family settled a century ago and a father whose life was “makin’ money, but home was all he knew.” Apparently, Cashman feels the same way – something he expresses in “Going Home,” a driving rocker delivered from the position of a tunesmith touring in foreign lands.

The band revisits “Walkin’ to My Baby,” a stop-time pleaser penned by Kim Wilson as a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds with a disappointing result. While Ray’s vocals and guitar dominate, Brown’s work on the reeds pales in comparison to Kim both in attack and tone. The blues-rocker “Listen to My Heart” provides momentary respite before the straight-ahead blues, “Southern Belle,” provides another difficult listen.

Fortunately, the pain subsides from the opening notes of “Evangalina,” a Gulf Coast pleaser with acoustic rockabilly overtones and a tasty mid-tune solo from Neifert, and continues in the high-test rocker, “Creeper.” A great reprise of Ray Wylie Hubbard and Cody Canada’s “Cooler n’ Hell,” about a favorite ’68 Camaro, follows before the original rocker “I Don’t Know” questions a relationship to bring the action to a close.

Available through Amazon and other online retailers, Palmetto & Pine offers some pleasant moments. But if you’re heading there, be aware that there are some bumps in the road.

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