Having honed his sound all across the U.S. from Georgia honky-tonks and Gulf Coast joints to Nashville and Los Angeles clubs, singer-songwriter Boo Ray recently released his new studio album, Sea Of Lights. Recorded live to 2” tape at Noah Shain’s White Buffalo Studio in Los Angeles with a band anchored by Steve Ferrone (drums), Paul Ill (bass), Sol Philcox-Littlefield (guitar), Dallas Kruse (Hammond B3), Smith Curry (pedal steel), and the background vocals of twin brothers Todd and Troy Gardner, the album is a rollicking ten track collection perfect for road trips, hanging out and everything in between. Taking time from his busy schedule, Ray kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the album via email.
Prior to the recording Sea of Lights, Ray's publishing deal ran out which found him working double shifts operating a forklift when he was robbed at gun point. In addition, he experienced an automotive mechanical disaster and had to abandon his vehicle on the side of the road outside of Chattanooga.
It seems like you were having more than a run of bad luck before you got the call to record with Noah, which appears to have been something akin to divine intervention or perfect timing.
No doubt about it. That kind of timing’s not likely an accident. I can only speak for myself and say that somehow the difficulties were necessary to allow for the success.
I read that you wanted the right songs for the project, so were they some that you had around, some that were freshly written or a combination of both?
Both. I’m always writing songs for the next record and had a few of those on hand to cull through. But once Noah called I set out to write some important songs for the record. I knew what kind of songs I needed in particular and hollered at a couple of my songwriting partners to write with. Mostly we wrote straight down the page, not having a chorus to write to. The chorus showed up right about the time we got to it.
The album was recorded live to 2” tape on the tape machine used to make Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and Nash era Cash records at Quonset Hut Studio. That’s a piece of history right there and must have been incredibly special.
Noah and the tape machine are an experience to be had. He’s half race car mechanic and half alchemist and the tape machine is something like a sacred time machine left behind by pioneers from another time.
As someone who finds learning about the technical aspects interesting, why did you want to do it that way? What does it provide when you listen?
I got into it by asking the question you just asked. I knew what I liked but didn’t know why. It’s complex but the simple answer is that I wanted to do it that way because it sounds better. Recordings made by George Martin and Tom Dowd are regarded as technical blueprints on the highest quality of sound recording… I knew I had a Jedi Master in Noah.
“Redneck Rock N Roll” sets the tone for the record, is that why it was placed as the first track?
Yeah, It’s just a bunch of fun and landed that way.
“Sea of Lights,” is the current single. What is the story behind that song and why did you choose that for the album title?
Choosing it as the title was kind of a natural consensus. Once we started making the record we just began talking about it that way. Like you said the song and the album were spawned out of crisis. But I was hunting for a classic backbeat type song with a real singing chorus and once I zeroed in on the intention of the whole thing, it just poured out on the page like a glass of milk. I just happened to be there to take care of it.
What spurred you to put “Chickens” and “Emmaline” on the album?
I just really dig both of those songs. That Hayes Carll/Ray Wylie Hubbard song is just a danged blast. And that arrangement of "Emmaline" is something I’m proud of. The whole intro/head is very different from the original Hot Chocolate version and the Urge Overkill version. That instrumental section is different but I think it expresses the intention real well.
All this month you are touring alongside radio visits, so what’s on tap for the Fall?
This fall I’ll be touring the southeast with my band and writing for the new album which we record in December.
Finally, I always like to know – is there one recent release that you cannot stop listening to and would recommend we check out?
Billy Gibbons recent Cuban album is great and I dig the Lawless score and soundtrack that Nick Cave did.
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Purchase Sea of Lights here