6L6 Blues Access review by Kathleen Rippey

Dave Ray · A Hollowbody Experience
  • Big Drawbar, Inc. 12002, Dec., 2000

Those of you not familiar with Dave “Snaker” Ray have a lot of catching up to do. Ray has been steadily releasing recordings since his first as one third of the legendary folk blues trio, Koerner, Ray and Glover, in 1963. Since then, he’s released eight solo projects (sometimes with Glover), several group efforts with ensembles variously titled the Three Bedroom Ramblers, the Back Porch Rockers (featuring Glover and special guests Reggie Scanlan and Camile Boudoin of the Radiators), the Elegonzos (who play something like New Orleans second line), not to mention three official, major label releases with KR&G, and multiple small label, bootlegged and independent KR&G releases. In short, the man can’t give up the life. And that’s good for all the fringe dwellers who have been faithful followers all these years. We know Dave Ray is a unique talent who sings and plays with exquisite subtle genius.

As a blues singer, Ray is unmatched for his natural grace and slouching, sly wit. As a guitar player, his jazzy lounge style has evolved over nearly four decades from outstanding finger style country blues picker to a one-of-a-kind electric guitar master of his own pallet of odd chords and sophisticated rhythms. Ray is a real scholar of the blues and his repertoire is downright heavenly. It is his mission to dig deep into the rich heritage of the blues and enrich our stock of American music knowledge with the gems he finds. On this recording alone, we hear outstanding interpretations of songs by the Reverend Robert Wilkins, the inimitable Magic Sam, Sleepy John Estes, and Muddy Waters. The Wilkins tune, “That’s No Way to Get Along,” is always a crowd pleaser – the familiar guitar riff and repeated title phrase suddenly jerk the listener into recognition – omigod, it’s the original of the song hijacked by the Rolling Stones and released as “Prodigal Son.” Sleepy John Estes’ song, “Someday, Baby,” is usually heard as “Worried Life Blues” but you’ve never heard it cakewalk like it does here. Ray gets suave and swank on “Fool’s Paradise,” down and dirty on “Louisiana Blues,” knee slapping countrified on “Fare Thee Well Blues,” and groovin’ and grindin’ on a foot stompin’ “It’s All Over Now.”

In that big fantastic cutting contest in the sky, Dave Ray met his match in Jeff Dagenhardt. Dagenhardt goes nearly back to the beginning with Ray and is the man Ray called on to teach him how to flat pick after smashing up his wrist in a motorcycle accident. Legend has it that Dagenhardt actually inserted the pick into Ray’s cast so he could start practicing right away. The two play like finely tuned Siamese twins connected at the brain. They’re fun to listen to because it’s a big one-upsmanship goof. I’m not talking about flashy, too-many-notes, I-can-play-louder-than-you stuff. No, no, no. Remember – this is subtle genius at work. Dave Kasik’s bass playing expertly defines the parameters within which the trio operates by sort of lassoing it all in. I guess the best way to describe their sound is to tell you how it feels. It makes you feel good and satisfied the way eating some good ribs with really special friends in the back yard on a perfect summer day does. The way listening to Albert King bend a note does or the powerful sound of the horn section on “Killing Floor” by Electric Flag does. It’s real easy and it makes you smile to listen. It fills you up. It’s not perfect, it’s merely sublime.