Angel Air 2014
Hard-hitting blues from the one who survived rock ‘n’ roll and deadly illness.
Note the shades on the artist’s eyes on the cover and the shade of blue around him: from Blind Willie Johnson’s prototype of “In My Time of Dying” to Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” and beyond, the death theme has been an integral part of the blues fabric – and a major part of Ray Majors’ life in the last years. Timely diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer, the veteran went through surgery and came out the winner, even though his voice turned to a raven’s croak. That black bird’s “Nevermore” and Edgar Allan Poe’s infatuation with cocaine, as well as Sherlock Holmes’ addiction, inspired the title track of the guitarist’s second album – so don’t expect the effervescence here that Ray beamed into MOTT, BRITISH LIONS and BOX OF FROGS – and that sound’s lent the record an authentic patina to sharpen the sentiment.
Majors may pitch the percussive doom in the voodoo darkness of “Users And Loozers” yet neither distorted vocals nor painfully muddy slider that cuts the likes of “Pop Goes The Weezal” can diminish the joie de vivre of opener “I’m Alive” and closer “In The Now”: both the former, a rockabilly sway rippling with slap echo and multi-tracked fatality, and the latter, a recital where the artist’s wife Sandy Dillon joins in, reflect Ray’s celebratory mood. On the other side of it all lie the Delta ring of “14 Hours” and the Old Testament gloom of “Fire On The Mountain” where acoustic magic weaves around the eerie steel – hard and true – while the romantic mandolin undercurrent gives “Dressed In Black” a richer texture. Totally out of the blue, though, appears the club groove of “Riptide/Landslide” which resolves in new-age passages and Eastern patterns, whereas “All Been Done” taps into the classic swamp tropes, unlike “Scarlet Ribbons” whose slow soundscape hosts a Renaissance fair swirl.
Still, it’s “It Ain’t A Problem” that marries desperation to hope and finds a solution in the reverb-heavy drift so, even if this record seems full of hurt at first, Ray Majors’ deadly demons are out for good by the end of it. Cathartic, as the Crossroads, but warm.