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Carl Ray - Play That Country Music Black Boy 
Review By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Wedged between his opening track, “Play That Country Music Black Boy” and his closing homage to color, “Was A Black Man”, Carl Ray delivers a keen blend of modern country. His opening and closing tunes, in particular the title cut, rather than a stir to the race pot, is a well-aimed backslap for African-American artists in country music. But, then, on listening to this album and reading this father of two’s bio, there’s one thing noticeable – passion, so, given that, the track offers an understood perspective. 

Mined from actual concert experiences, where fans encouraged the racial awareness, Carl tells the story behind his opening tune. Speaking from his website he tells: “As a teenager, play that Funky Music White Boy was one of my favorite songs. If you are old enough to remember that song, you will also remember that the whole world couldn't resist singing and dancing along. I'm hoping my song has that same effect.” 

For the good-looking hatted Texan with the pearly whites and the Vince Gill vocal similarity, the whole album, not just a song or two, is sure to create and grab interest. Rather than cobble together covers, fillers and waffle, Ray has roped in a hot band, gifted writers (he’s included, with 5 tune credits) and delivered an easy-on-the ear-affair. And, just to be sure it’s all working right Ray has thrown out a challenge to listeners. He wants feedback. “I'm fearless, so go ahead and post your comments … so everyone can read them.” (Check out his Myspace link below for details).

These are early days for Ray. But he’s making the right moves. He’s building his fan base. He’s connecting with good management. The rest now falls to radio; those who (hopefully) can hear beyond the monotonous familiarity of the same 20 tracks. Radio programmers need to inject diversity to their selective mixes. How’s it done? Slotting tomorrow’s stars, today, into the rotation. Carl Ray, given the early feedback, the international play on choice radio stations and the general industry buzz, is an artist for adventurous programmers to hear and play.

If radio needs a hit waiting to happen, listen for the fiddle-laced heartache, “Then Again”. Smooth, touching, memorable and tender – the Wood Newton and Deidre Wilson co-write is a perfect carriage for Ray’s clear and emotive voice. The cowboy’s dream, “Corene”, drives home in toe-tapping style the rumors of a Vince Gill clone being true. “Text Book Case”, a David Ball and Tommy Polk tune featuring Ball, is an easy rug-movin’ shuffle, while “She Makes The Bad Times Roll Away” is a nod to love and devotion. “Haggard And Jones” shows just where the black boy who plays country music gets his inspiration. Other choice cuts include the energetic “Nothin’ But” and the ballad provided by Nashville Star winner, Buddy Jewell, “Toss And Turn”; both are showcase tunes.

Carl Ray has asked for feedback. Here it is. 3/5 stars.

Related Links:   
Official Website
MySpace  

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