June 14, 2024

Mood SwingMood Swing
Ray McCarty
(Viewpoint)
by John Barrett

There are two sides to this story, contrasts you see from every angle. He’s a nimble-toned smoothie who’s played with the Yellowjackets’ Russell Ferrante; he’s an old-style houserocker who started in the R&B clubs of San Jose. Recording in Texas, he’s spinning the sounds of Brazil – when he isn’t bringin’ the blues. All this on his first date as a leader. Many styles, but only one mood – and it’s a beauty.

Feel the breeze as we head south on “We’re Still Here”: sweet rounded notes as the rhythm ticks softly. The B-3 comes forward, a mellow partner to the gentle guitar (or rather, guitars – that’s Ray on an overdubbed rhythm part.) It’s a slow drifter, with room for a surprise: there’s a hint of Martino in the solo. The island breeze fades, and before us is “Verbena Way”, a stretch of raw blacktop with a roadhouse nearby. The single-string is tough and greasy; shades of Freddie King, whose “Heads Up” appears later. On the side is Robert Skiles; his easy boogie goes down smooth. To cool off, we go to the beach: Ray floats metallic chords, and a sax calls from the distance. Wait for the end: a flute calls, the saxes respond, and Ray spins a flourish. It’s called “The Light”, and sounds like dusk: the lovely end to a romantic day. The mood can’t be better…

And the blues come back. Spooky chords waft by, a pattern of shifting clouds. Before this Ray twangs, a sound authoritative and dark. He starts to howl and the comp gets busy, like sheets of rain. He’s “Comin’ Home Baby”, and his presence is welcome. “Tidal Wave” is “Still Here” gone active: tough drums, a little distortion, an eternal chord from the organ. It’s a shade of light blue, and wonderfully restless. “Watermelon Man” lives on that wonderful riff, carried mostly on guitar. Ray spins some smoke, and Skiles has his best moment – it’s the tune you remember. And you should.

“What’s Up” moves in funk territory – Ray opens with wah-wah, then chords with a little fuzz. The tone is impressive, even if the tune’s on the plain side. Now he tries octaves, with a springy sound. His attack is strong, prodded a bit by the organ – now add some distortion, and he’s a guitar hero. That’s a nice moment, and here comes the last. “Heads Up” stomps hard at the barroom: soaring notes that end in broad wiggles. Pay attention to Skiles: his boogie influences Ray’s solo, as it did on “Verbena”. The riffs keeps getting stronger, and no one wants it to end. Least of all you.

Rating: *** ½. Some tunes sound alike, but this has a lot going for it. The blues are superb, and the smoothies show variety. It’s all inviting, and the mood should do it for you.

Songs: We’re Still Here; Verbena Way; The Light’ Comin’ Home Baby; Tidal Wave; Mister Magic; Watermelon Man; What’s Up With That?; Always There; Heads Up.

Musicians: Ray MacCarty (guitar); John Mills (tenor sax flute); Robert Skiles (piano); Riley Osborne (electric piano, organ); Larry Seyer (keyboards, percussion); Chris Maresh or Kyle Brock (bass); Kevin Conway (drums); Brad Evilsizer (drums on “The Light”); James Fenner (percussion)..

For more info, contact: Viewpoint Records

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