Sugaray Rayford – In Too Deep
Forty Below Records – 2022
10 tracks; 38 minutes
Sugaray Rayford’s new album In Too Deep, is coming in early March. His previous album, Somebody Save Me was nominated for a Grammy and for the Blues Blast Award for Soul-Blues Album Of The Year.
Again working with Forty Below owner Eric Corne, Sugaray puts in a string of splendid vocal performances, well supported by a strong band of musicians. Sugaray manages to make the songs sound intensely personal although he co-wrote two of them, alongside producer Eric who is credited on all the songs. Musicians include the great Rick Holmstrom on guitar on six tracks, Eamon Ryland replacing him on three, Eric Corne on one. Keys are shared between Sasha Smith and Drake Munkihaid Shining, the rhythm section is Matt Tecu on drums and Taras Prodaniuk on bass; Monette Marino Keita adds percussion to one cut. Horns are provided on most tracks by Aaron Liddard (sax, flute), Simon Finch (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Tom White (trombone), strings by Eric Gorfain (violins) and Richard Dodd (cello). Background vocals come from producer Eric and Gia Ciambotti.
Sugaray is a veteran himself and opener “Invisible Soldier” discusses the issues faced by veterans with PTSD to a soundtrack of pulsing rhythms, blaring horns and backing vocals, over which Sugaray sings the song brilliantly. The title track “In Too Deep” finds the singer’s character facing financial uncertainties: “Never been devout, but I’m on my knees, I never had my hand out, earned my keep, I keep trying to climb out, can’t find my way out, got to pull myself out, I’m in too deep.” The pace drops for a deep soul ballad “No Limit To My Love” on which the backing vocals and keyboards provide a subtle backdrop to Sugaray’s pleading, partially answered by guitarist Eamon’s wah-wah work.
The horns return for the moody “Under The Crescent Moon” which takes us down to New Orleans, the flute adding to the lightness of touch provided by the keyboards. Sugaray raises social inequalities and that awful modern phenomenon, deliberate misinformation, on “Miss Information”, the upbeat tune enhanced by hand percussion and a strong horn arrangement. Sugaray sounds inspired on the acapella “Please Take My Hand” by the sparse gospel backing vocals, handclaps and occasional percussion, a song that discusses social issues such as voting rights.
“One” is a plea for peace and a sensible approach to vital issues such as protecting the environment, before it really is too late. Sugaray urges us to be positive on a bright and positive “Gonna Lift You Up”, complete with wild sax solo, before the gorgeous ballad “Golden Lady Of The Canyon”. Although the song is not one to which Sugaray contributed it just has to be about his wife Pam: “Always there with a perfect plan, my biggest critic but my biggest fan, baby, you make me a better man than I am, or I could ever hope to be”. Shimmering guitar (Rick Holmstrom), lilting organ solo (Sasha Smith), this track has the lot – simply superb.
“United We Stand” closes the album with a final blast of the horns over a bubbling bass line as Sugaray preaches and implores everyone up on to the dance floor, just like in his live shows, in which this song is bound to feature in the future.
Sugaray Rayford is a force of nature singer who is equal parts showman, preacher and serious thinker and this album delivers all those aspects of his talent. Watch out for this one in those end of the year “best of” lists!