For decades, bluesman and songwriter Ray Bonneville worked day jobs while playing his songs in coffee houses and house parties at night, eventually earning a place on international festival stages with Muddy Waters and Bukka White long before he had a recording contract. Since 1993, Bonneville's issued a host of recordings of consistently high quality. 2008's Goin' by Feel, produced by Gurf Morlix, scored him a number one at Americana with "I Am the Big Easy," his tribute to New Orleans (Bonneville lived there before relocating to Austin). Bad Man's Blood was co-produced with Justin Douglas and Morlix (electric, baritone, and bass guitars and banjo), percussionist Mike Meadows, and saxophonist Dexter Payne, in various combinations. Bonneville plays an amalgam of acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, and his trademark foot stomp. The blues songs – the poetic, narrative title track (inspired no doubt by hardbitten characters from Gothic American fiction) to raw, skeletal, electric snaky rhythm constructions like "Mississippi," that addresses the Delta's tradition in his playing and the horrors of the river flooding in its historical story line.
Ray Bonneville combines electric blues motifs, a light sense of humor, and a pop approach to song-making. On pieces like the opening "Don't Look Back," with electric piano from Richard Bell, this combination comes across as a sort of Memphis Randy Newman. Colin Linden here produces this unique, memorable Canadian songwriter on his third album. Linden provides slide, baritone, and other guitar work on the album. Like Linden, Bonneville is adept at incorporating blues styles into accessible pop gems. Recorded in Canada and Nashville, this album features mandolin maestro Tim O'Brien on "Canary Yellow Car" and the Band's Rick Bell playing keyboards on five selections. Like the album, Bonneville is a constantly moving dual citizen of Canada and the United States. This broad base of experience reflects in an album featuring North American themes of pop, rock, and blues.
Roll It Down begins with a funky, roots rock-based "Tomorrow's Yesterday,", a song that immediately brings to mind the super-group Little Village featuring John Hiatt. The bassline is also more prominent here. "Under The Bridge" is another slow blues-oriented song that could draw comparisons to Robert Cray without the great blues guitar solo but with a credible backing keyboard. The relaxing nature of most of Ray Bonneville's work is ever-present through the baker's dozen of offerings, especially the bounce emanating from "July Sun." "You might know the way to go/If you ask a passing crow," he sings as Colin Linden helps out on mandolin. Most of the time the arrangements work but the title of the album gets the tracks off on the wrong foot, and they can't quite right themselves. The shining moment comes during "Oxford Town," a heartfelt duet with Jonell Mosser on harmony vocals, bringing to mind a possible duet between Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris. Another very good effort comes from "Walk With Me," a toe-tapping melody straight from Waylon Jennings with some fine guitar picking.
Red House Records is pleased to announce a new release by Ray Bonneville, a poet of the demimonde whose new album, Easy Gone, was released on April 15, 2014. The album finds the French Canadian-born, American-bred guitarist/ songwriter delivering a powerful, gritty batch of songs written from a lifetime of hard-won knowledge, including a stint in Vietnam and a struggle with drug addiction. In his life, he’s been a bush pilot and a cab driver among other jobs, living both in the States and French-speaking Canada. A true raconteur with a lifetime of stories to tell, the self-taught musician was just too busy living to get around to opening his storybook until his early 40s, some 20 years after he started performing.