Yesterday & Me
With Yesterday & Me, Kayla Ray’s sophomore album, we are served a tasty slice country pie that will nourish and satisfy your hunger for the real thing. You don’t need no spray cream when the cherries are this sweet, baby. Ray is form, Waco, Teaxs, where she grew up to the sounds that infuse her own music, Patsy, Loretta, Tammy, Merle, George and Willie all get a name check on Ray's website. You can certainly hear their combined influence, but that’s not to say that Ray is a slavish facsimilar. Here, she delivers an album of depth and maturity that has been recorded and produced with as much taste as has been put into the writing and playing. Yesterday & Me has quality written all over it.
“Hello goodbye, hello freedom… hello hard times, hello Demons”; from the album’s opening salvo, Rockport, a breezy tale of alcoholism and addiction, it is clear we are in the company of a talented songwriter with a natural affinity for her craft, making music for grownups who know what real country music is. The guitar and dobro lay a perfect bed for Ray's precise, lyrical delivery as she lays just enough Texas drawl on her beautiful vocal embrace.
I was hooked on first listen, my only concern was where the rest of the album would take me, but I should have known there was no need to worry. As soon as Magnolias in Springtime kicks in, I realised it might not be possible for Ray to put a foot wrong, as the gentle country-rock guitars and the rippling piano are replaced by a lulling saw of fiddle. As if any further reassurances were needed, Camel Blues nails the point home, you are in the hands of a master stylist. Then, just as you’re sitting back, relaxed, Ray turns up the heat, with Hell of a Day to Drink All Night coming on like a runaway train. You’re out of the rocking chair and rolling up the rug. Red River Valley’s Run Dry puts you back in the rocker, and if your anything like me, you’re probably thinking it’s about time you dusted off your old Guy Clark records. Things Only Years Can Teach a Woman could have been penned by Dolly Parton for Tammy Wynette, while there’s more of that exquisite dobro on Once a Week Cheaters, a slipping-around waltz, with duet-duties going to the fine voice of Colton Hawkins.
Pills, a great choice for a Friday night Whiskey Preachin spin round that hardwood floor, brings us back to the roadhouse as the drums and bass come up in the mix and Ray’s sassy lyrics guarantee her entry to the party. The title track sees us back to more countrypolitan territory, with the electric Rhodes returning and lending thoughts of Charlie Rich.
With all the chatter in the country music press about pop music killing off the real thing, there could not be a better time for this album to be released. If only those same publications would stop giving the column inches to music they claim is killing the genre and more to artists like Kayla Ray, who is doing a fine job of keeping it alive, maybe more people would discover why they should be listening out for the good stuff. It’s out there, folks, you’ve just got to give a goddam. Go out and get it.