Boo Ray - Tennessee Alabama Fireworks
I’m sometimes suspicious of the ‘copy’ that comes with a new album but I have no problem with calling Ray a ‘Self Styled Southern Troubador’. Firmly seated in Country Rock he writes killer tunes and delivers a lyric with memorable soundbites. Tennessee Alabama Fireworks refers to a sign just off Interstate 24, which is either a burden or gift. Ray was commuting between the two States about 80 times a year and on one side emotional problems abounded but on the other a soothing calm would return. Maybe this is a good time to mention that Ray turns his life into a song and more often than not he’s reflecting on disruption and hair raising scrapes. The title track off his last album Sea Of Lights was inspired by getting mugged and his car falling apart!
"A Tune You Can Whistle" starts the 10 track album and hits an immediate driving groove with pedal steel behind his slightly frayed but attractive voice. From the start you get the feel that this is a crafted affair. Ray is an accomplished guitarist and it shows throughout. Recorded at Nashville’s Welcome to 1979 studio in 5 days then he must have arrived well rehearsed. The ballad "She Wrote The Song" has a Southern Rock feel with lashings of Soul. Ray talks of a life of challenges and bad luck. His chorus tells us “It's the pain pills that took away my sweetheart, It give me cold chills I think that's gonna leave a scar”. This sounds like a sad chapter in his life but he’s now moved on.
"Don’t Look Back" is another fabulous arrangement. Hitting that groove again his preoccupation is guiding a Cadillac to Texas and leaving behind his troubles. Some energetic ‘out of your seat’ 60s Soul with brass introduces "20 Questions" with its examination of a lover’s motives and movements. Ray leads the vocal above wailing guitars and a girly chorus.
The album closes with a little romance on "Skin & Ink". This demonstrates his talent as a Country wordsmith - “Drinking at the lost love lounge down on Dauphine street, She was looking at this naked girl peeking out beneath my sleeve, She said ‘Damn, that girl there on your arm it should be me’, Ice melting in my whiskey glass, girl if you only knew, The love took to get her there, and the hell she put me through, Yeah, yeah might be a little room on the other arm for you”. A honky tonk rhythm with fluid electric guitar from Ray takes this home.
I’ve loved his last three albums and if your Country music comes with some memorable hook drenched melodies, some Steve Earle mayhem and one foot in Southern Rock then this is for you.