I was familiar with Caron 'Sugaray' Rayford prior to his joining The Manish Boys. About his self-produced debut album Blind Alley, I observed, "Not many singers can take us from the delta to the modern chitlin’ circuit as easily as he does. A big man with a big voice and plenty of personality that makes Blind Alley a recording to savor." He can be heard on "Double Dynamite," the most recent recording by The Manish Boys where he shared vocal duties with Finis Tasby. With Tasby's recent health problems, Sugaray Rayford has become the primary vocalist for the rotating talent that play in that group.
Delta Groove has just released the label's first release by Sugaray Rayford, Dangerous. Producer Randy Chortkoff has brought together an impressive group of supporting players including harmonica players Sugar Ray Norcia, Kim Wilson, Big Pete and Chortkoff himself; guitarists Kid Andersen, Franck Goldwasser; Gino Matteo and Monster Mike Welch; keyboardists Anthony Geraci and Fred Kaplan; bassists Willie C. Campbell and Bill Stuve; and drummer Jimi Bott. Several tracks have the horns of saxophonist Ron Dziubla and trumpeter Mark Pender. This is a first-rate studio band to back Sugaray's vocals.
There is a nice mix of material from the Chicago blues shuffle that Sugar Ray Norcia penned, Country Boy, a song reminiscent of Dave Bartholomew's similarly titled track.which sports Norcia's harp as well. The Sugaray and Norcia trade vocals on Norcia's amusing Two Times Sugar with Monster Mike superb here. Sugaray's "Stuck For a Buck" is an amusing uptown number as his woman has maxed out his credit cards with punchy horns. Chortkoff contributed I'm Dangerous, a fine lyric that evokes Muddy Waters (especially Muddy's recording Evil) as Rayford shouts that he is a natural born lover. Going Back To Texas is another fine Muddy Waters styled number with a melody that goes at least back to Otis Spann's Hungry Country Girl, that the great pianist recorded with Fleetwood Mac.
Goldwasser channels T-Bone Walker on the excellent rendition of Pee Wee Crayton's When it Rains It Pours as Sugaray gives a wonderfully nuanced vocal while he shouts out Gatemouth Brown's Depression Blues, with some terrifically slashing guitar in the manner of fifties Johnny 'Guitar' Watson from Kid Andersen. Andersen and Chortkoff also shine backing Sugaray on the cover of Junior Parker's In The Dark.
Closing out Dangerous is a rendition of Son House's Preaching Blues with some nice slide guitar from Goldwasser. It is an interesting and enjoyable performance, if not completely successful to these ears. It does not diminish the overall excellence of the blues heard here. Sugaray Rayford is such an impressive singer and with excellent material and the superb backing band, Dangerous is another terrific album from a gentleman who is quickly solidifying a place in the upper ranks of blues singers today.
I received my review copy from Delta Groove. This will be issued on September 17. This review has also appeared in the September-October issue of Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 350) which may be downloaded as a pdf file at www.jazz-blues.com. Here is a video of Sugaray with The Manish Boys.