Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Don Ray Band "Kickstands Up"

For some time now, I’ve had an acquired taste for country rock. Country and rock are two genres that have not been mixed in to one often enough. Two main bands that I can think include two of my favourite artists; there’s the obvious choice that are the Eagles, and then there is country legend Charlie Daniels. The former made a career, particularly on their first four albums, by releasing music more on the side of rock music but with a definite country influence at the heart of all of their songs, some songs even being closely classified to country. The latter artist, Charlie Daniels, made a career in contradiction to the Eagles, by making music more toward the side of country music, with a great deal of southern rock influence in a countless amount of his songs.

Don Ray Band have managed to capture the magic of the country rock sound, more closely related to the style of Charlie Daniels, but turning up the badass factor just a little bit. Led by the band’s namesake member, Iowa born Don Ray, the band was formed after years of hanging around the music scenes in Texas and Nashville playing drums and singing for local bands. Don finally decided he wanted to break free and write his own stuff.

Since the bands formation, (which also includes guitarist Gary Dales, keyboardist Jonathan Armstrong, bassist Jeff Offutt and drummer Josh Birkhimer) they have released three albums under the Don Ray Band name. Debuting in 2009 with On Top of the Heap, then following that with 2010’s Lonesome Rider and finally 2012’s Full Throttle. On earlier this month, Don Ray Band compiled the seven collective best tracks from these three albums along with three new tracks and released them all on the newest release by the band, Kickstands Up.

Since this is a compilation album, I’ll speak more of the three new tracks, all of which start off the album, beginning with the album’s title track, Kickstands Up. This track starts off with the Americana sound that the band has made themselves known for by their fans, with an almost inspirational mixture of instruments flowing at a nice pace while Don sings a song that mixes his love for his country and his love of riding down the open road. Don’s voice is in as fine form as in all of the bands tracks; his style sounding like that of a country singer, but not a modern “pop” country singer, but rather a serious singer who wants to be taken seriously above anything else.

The next track, The Ride, changes style on a dime, with a very funky bass beat, almost sounding like Red Hot Chili Peppers southern rock style. The funky beat remains throughout the song, but as the chorus hits, the Chili Peppers sound diminishes into another great free feeling riding song. The third and final of the new tracks, Eagles and Buffalo, takes the bands badass sound to a new level, with the baddest (yes I know that’s not a real word) of guitar intros heard so far on the album. The song remains to be yet another inspirational sounding track by the band. The lead guitar playing of this song, just like all three new tracks, is terrific and doesn’t sound a bit out of place, keeping the southern rock sound alive in every track.

The rest of the album, as previously mentioned, is made up of a compilation of the best of Don Ray Band’s three studio releases. From 2012’s Full Throttle we have the slow and serious Daniels And Caine, the roadhouse jamming track My Rush, the soulful This Is Our House and the rocking anthem title track Full Throttle.

From the 2010 sophomore album, Lonesome Rider, we’re given the title track Lonesome Rider, which is definitely bands best riding tune, and the bluesy ballad Gone Nowhere. Finally the album ends with the lone selected track from the bands 2009 debut On Top of the Heap, that song being probably the finest of Don Ray Band tracks; The High Road. This song shows the band at their most raw, playing a more blues rock sound than a country. I mentioned My Rush being a roadhouse jam of a song, but it has nothing on The High Road.

It’s easy to hear the transition in the band’s music. From the blues rock driven sound of their debut (which includes other very blues influenced songs such as I Might Just Say Goodbye and Perfect Ten). Then the transition to the bands sophomore album which added a bit more country but kept the hard rock beat to their songs such as Monday Morning News. Then the bands third album, where the band continues to come in to its own, with songs such as the four included on this album. The new tracks on this album only add to the signature sound that Don Ray Band have made for themselves after the long wrong they’ve rode to get this far. Let’s be thankful that it doesn’t look like the band is going anywhere.


Eagles and Buffalo” –­ It’s not easy picking a highlight from a compilation. I decided it would be best to pick the highlight of the new tracks, because picking a highlight from the whole album would be indirectly proclaiming it a highlight by the band in general and not just this album, which is something I am not prepared to do. Eagles and Buffalo however is the highlight of the new tracks because it displays the best example of the direction the band has taken. The inspirational Americana sound of the band mixed with the not-to-be-messed-with hard rock sound that the band has always been known for.



8 (Out of 10)


Track List:

"Kickstands Up"  
"The Ride"  
"Eagles and Buffalo"  
"Daniels And Caine"  
"My Rush"  
"Lonesome Rider"  
"This Is Our House"  
"Full Throttle"  
"Going Nowhere"  
"The High Road"  

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