The stage set the tone for the night. An incredibly simple design of a small office or barn, with a wooden end table and antique phonograph for a little warmth. Behind them two exposed spot lights would change from time to time, reminiscent of a high school play.
Those who have listened to Ray since his exceptional debut in 2004, should already know that he doesn't need much else other than his gravelly voice and a guitar. Opening with New York City's Killing Me, the song transformed into a slow, bleak confessional. Where the original had the help of slide guitar and shuffling drums from his usual backing band, The Pariah Dogs, this one was isolated and aching.
Sarah was another highlight, focusing on reflective lyrics, lines like "There ain't a thing I can say that will ever repair/And you, who had so much advice and yet couldn't share" found a true spotlight.
As Ray has grown in popularity, so has his ability to share stories with his audience. While mentioning his visit with Mayor Emanuel, he also shared his concern about the recent election; "It's very troubling to think that someone would think people expect a hand out, when all they really need is some help up."
Some songs received a slight makeover, most notably Jolene. The guitar was forceful and direct, so much that I mistook it for an earlier, unreleased song. Even the verses seemed shorter, almost spoken. That could have been in part to Ray recent poor health. The 2 shows prior to Friday night in Atlanta and Nashville were postponed due to strep throat.
Never was it more evident than during Trouble, where the soaring refrain, particularly the word "saved" never found its height. After that the duo became a trio, as Irish Singer/Songwriter, Lisa Hannigan joined the group for the next 8 songs. Her stunning duet with Ray on A Falling Through, was made for the acoustics of the Chicago Theatre.
One Lonesome Saddle was a real surprise. Ray introduced it as an outtake from the Trouble LP, but it truly is much more than that. The song is actually the title track to a demo album he made before being signed to a label. It may not be the first song he ever wrote, but it was a clear example of his talent from day one.
You Are The Best Thing transformed into a emphatic statement, another song that found new life with less flash than the original, but devotion to spare. Following that with Like Rock & Roll and Radio, almost became too much to bear as his song of days past and the confusion of a lost relationship rang true for a speechless audience.
The tour continues on to Ohio and back to Tennessee for the rescheduled dates. Please check him out if you have the chance. The poster above was designed by Methane Studios. Arrive early for a chance to buy a few signed by Ray, or head over to Methane's site for a print, limited to 530, signed and number by the original artist.
1. New York City's Killing Me
2. For The Summer
4. Beg, Steal, Borrow
7. Old Before Your Time
9. A Falling Through *
10. I Still Care For You *
11. Gone Away From Me *
12. Be Here Now *
13. One Lonesome Saddle *
14. Winter Birds *
15. Meg White *
16. Gossip In The Grain *
17. Repo Man
18. O Sleep * (Lisa Hannigan Cover)
19. You Are The Best Thing
20. Like Rock & Roll and Radio
* with Lisa Hannigan