If a song released from a debut solo album is a duet with the legendary Patti Smith, then you’re certainly going to wonder about the circumstances behind that event occurring. In the case of ‘Best Game In Town’, from Oliver Ray’s debut album, ‘Out Passed Nowhere’, released today on Royal Oakie Records, it’s not a happy accident.
Ray is the close friend of Smith, and the long time guitarist in her band, but he’s stepping into the spotlight for the first time on his own, and even without her assistance, the track will make people sit up and listen.
It’s not the first track from the album. Ray released ‘Ol’ Coyote’ in early May to some acclaim. And it’s certainly not the only track on the album to feature a guest collaborator, as ‘Out Passed Nowhere’ contains a cavalcade of artists who hail from the Bay Area, Tucson, and New York City musical fraternity – members of Giant Sand, Sugar Candy Mountain, The Myrrors, Xixa, and China – in addition to Smith. It is however the debut album others can only dream of, and is the culmination of decades of playing music and writing songs; in fact we might well ask why it’s taken so long for him to release his debut. He puts it succinctly however, stating in a press release about the record,
This album stands as testament to all those miles of road traveled.
‘Best Game In Town’ is a long cool drink of water. It’s languid and drawling but it conveys an instant sense of calm, with Ray and Smith’s vocals coalescing in such a way that you know this is a friendship that has stood the test of time. They’re comfortable with each other, and can anticipate each other’s strengths in such a way as to let them shine.
‘Best Game In Town’ sonically falls somewhere between folk and rock – folk rock if you will – with a definite psychedelic vibe thrown into the mix, particularly the echoed intones of the song title. Guitar led with scant percussion (there’s some gentle cymbals at the start, and just enough drums to keep the beat), it’s the vocals which take centre stage. Oliver Ray’s voice calls to mind Tom Petty, Neil Young, even Patti Smith herself. It’s drawn out and lazy and yet there’s a sense of urgency about it, as he conveys how much Smith means to him – and she echoes the same sentiment in reply.
‘Out Passed Nowhere’ was produced by David Glasebrook, who in collaboration with Ray ensured each track had its own unique sonic stamp. Essentially there are no genre boundaries on the record; rather the focus has been on the emotions of each song. It all works, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that at the start you think is just a pile of blue sky pieces, but in the end you discover it’s actually a glorious landscape.
‘Out Passed Nowhere’, by Oliver Ray, is released today on Royal Oakie Records. Read more about him on their site.