Dirty Linen

Review from Dirty Linen · Folk & World Music #81 ~ April/May ’99

Dave Ray · Snake Eyes
  • Tim/Kerr T/K 172 (1998)
Three Bedroom Ramblers · What Was The Question?
  • Tim/Kerr TK 168-2

Dave “Snaker” Ray is known mostly for being part of the legendary folk-blues trio Koerner, Ray, and Glover, a group that was highly influential in the 1960s. Ray is less well known for his solo work, although his own sporadic albums over the years revealed him to be one of’ the very best folk-blues artists extant. After releasing the trio’s first reunion album in 30 years, the Tim/Kerr label followed up with a Ray/Glover duo album and has now released two new albums by Ray. What distinguishes Ray from all other blues performers, besides his wonderfully emotive voice, is his intricate work on 12-string guitar. His prowess and versatility on the instrument is nothing short of spell-binding, and any upstart who thinks he can match Ray’s full-bodied playing is probably seriously delusional. Ray’s impeccable choice of tunes on Snake Eyes includes a couple of Willie Dixon songs, as well as material by Arthur Crudup, Percy Mayfield, and Eddie Vinson. The most surprising choice is undoubtedly Brook Benton’s “Kiddeo,” with the original orchestra replaced by Ray’s comping on guitar. His rendition of one of the most obscure songs, “Spyglass Blues,” is nothing short of brilliant.

The Three Bedroom Ramblers consist of Ray joined by keyboard player and singer John Beach and drummer Kory Badertscher. With this group, Ray plays mostly electric guitar, and the approach is also very different in many other respects. More than half the songs are written by Ray and Beach; the rest are covers of obscure songs by such writers as Jazz Gillum and Leon Payne. Ray and Beach alternate vocals on material that reflects the type of jazzy approach that one would expect from musicians in a quirky state of mind. In some respects this is reminiscent of Bamboo, Ray’s early 70s group. It’s an off-kilter break from the more passionate blues format and, if it doesn’t deliver quite the same punch or consistency, it’s still an interesting facet of Ray’s talent.