Sugaray Rayford – In Too Deep
Grammy-nominated Texas-born soul/blues singer Sugaray Rayford has released 6 LPs drenched in funky R&B grooves, blues & vibrant soul. He continues to produce a repertoire that musically addresses social issues, civil rights, injustices, self-reflection, PTSD & life’s hardships. With his new 10-cut In Too Deep (Drops March 4–Forty Below Records) Rayford takes all those aforementioned influences, mixes them generously with modern sensibilities & well-sautéed arrangements to create a flavorful experience.
The collection, produced by Eric Corne (background vocals/guitar on “Gonna Lift You Up” & worked with legendary English bluesman John Mayall, Walter Trout, Joe Walsh (The Eagles), Edgar Winter, the late Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams & other name acts) has, in essence, produced a marvelously polished & finished sound for Mr. Rayford.
The 6’5 Rayford has a voice that goes with his stature. He recorded these tunes at Corne’s Forty Below Studios in Los Angeles. Eric wrote the majority of the music & Sugaray scribbled the lyrics.
Vocally, on “Invisible Soldier,” the driving title track “Into the Deep,” & the horn-blaring “Gonna Lift You Up,” Sugaray’s timbre, energy & enthusiasm is mindful of Seattle, Washington’s late lead vocalist/bassist Luther Rabb of the 1969 horn-based-lead guitar-led band Ballin’ Jack (Columbia Records). They had crisp charts & their funk-driven aggressive “Hold On,” with its otherworldly trombone break was superb. Ballin’ Jack songs have been widely sampled.
If Sugaray takes a similar musical road he’ll percolate. While not yet in that dynamic environment of Solomon Burke & Percy Sledge, it’s obvious SR has the goods with his genuine soulfulness that emanates from a very deep place in his clearly audible well-fueled pipes. Without seeing him perform you can imagine the showmanship through his vocal intonation & phrasing.
He should avoid the overabundance of rhyming as depicted in “Miss Information” — a bit of mainstream reach. But Mr. Rayford regains control on “Please Take My Hand,” — a Fairfield Four-type prison dirge (“Po’ Lazarus”) from the “Come Down From the Mountain” concert documentary.
Some tunes lean particularly close to 70s ballad sweetness but are redeemed alone by Sugaray’s vocals. “Golden Lady of the Canyon,” is wonderful & reminds me of “Table In the Wilderness,” by the Soul Mission. These 2 songs are great soulmates.
Musicians: Rick Holmstrom (guitar/6 cuts) also has a review of his own album coming. Eamon Ryland (guitar/3 cuts), Sasha Smith & Drake Munkihaid Shining (keyboards), Taras Prodaniuk (bass), Matt Tecu (drums), Aaron Liddard (saxes/flute), Simon Finch (trumpet/flugelhorn), Tom White (trombone), Eric Gorfain (violins), Richard Dodd (cello), Monette Marino Keita (percussion/cut 5), & Gia Ciambotti (background vocals).
One criticism/question: why would such powerful well-played & sung music be presented with cartoonish images on the CD cover art when there are so many compelling photos of Sugaray available? Just wondering.
Photo courtesy of Allison Morgan. The 38-minute CD @ https://sugarayrayford.com/