Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ray Bonneville

Sometimes-Montrealer Ray Bonneville, who mostly lives in Texas these days, will be back in Montreal this Saturday, January 30, 8:00 pm, for a concert at Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur East. Contact Hello Darlin’ Productions at 514-524-9224 for information or reservations.

Ray is a fine blues-based singer-songwriter-guitar player whose music reflects a lifetime of musical rambling from Montreal to New Orleans to Texas. This picture is from a workshop I hosted at the 2009 Ottawa Folk Festival with Ray, Michael Jerome Browne and Ellen McIlwaine.

Here’s the review I wrote a couple of years ago for Sing Out! Magazine about Ray’s latest album.

Goin’ by Feel
Red House

Ray Bonneville, the blues-based singer-songwriter who spends his winters in Arkansas and Texas and his summers in Montreal and Eastern Ontario, has always built his music around the groove. To paraphrase from the title track from his latest album, his music goes by feel. The groove, throughout the CD, is based on the interplay between his always fluid fingerpicking on electric guitar, his rack harmonica work and vocals and a drummer: Geoff Arsenault on nine of the tracks, Rick Richards on the other three. A couple of the songs are just Ray and Geoff, but he variously layers on tasty contributions from the likes of co-producer Gurf Morlix on bass and banjo; harmony vocalist Eliza Gilkyson; Nick Connolly on keyboards; and guitarist Brad Hayes on to the rest.

I should mention that while Ray plays an electric guitar, his use of an electric is not really about volume, it’s more about sustain and occasional effects. Mostly, he plays it in a way that listeners accustomed to acoustic guitars will not find alien. And that may be why he spends much of his time touring the folk, rather than rock, circuit.

Ray has long been a good songwriter and this set features some of his best songwriting to date. Among the standout his strongest songs are “I Am the Big Easy,” a post-Hurricane Katrina tribute to New Orleans, and Carry the Fallen, a poignant commentary on how war affects such a wide range of people: those in the countries where the battles take place; the soldiers who come home in flag-draped coffins and their families; the soldiers who come home psychologically damaged; and the politicians in high office who continue to send young people off to fight.

--Mike Regenstreif

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