Singer-songwriter Benjamin Raye didn’t kill himself packaging his EP, Benjamin Raye. The cover is a low-resolution image of Raye with guitar at a microphone and a list of the songs. Open the case and on the other side of the cover sheet are credits and a small photo (with better resolution) and the copyright notice along with, naturally, a website. At which there’s contact info, show schedule, songs, videos, and photos. But, no bio. So the guy doesn’t stay awake nights, losing sleep about making a marketable presence.
On the other hand, he makes remarkable music—at times magical. Highly original. If you must have a peg on which to hang it, soft-rock will do. Raye comes out of a laid-back, easily likable bag. He’s emotive with understated energy, warm vibes radiating like sunshine. Sort of like John Sebastian with the old Lovin’ Spoonful. You can’t do any better than this for a feel-good sound.
It’s always a nice touch to have a lyric sheet, but, fortunately, Raye articulates so well you don’t need one. Not that the words quite come up to the melodies; still, it’s refreshing to clearly hear everything that’s being sung. Especially when the music is this beautiful.
Take “Here With You.” Starts out sparse acoustic guitar tripping a tasty fantastic. The playing ain’t complicated, just ingenious. Hooks as bass, drums, and electric guitar (all played by Raye) weigh in with sweetly layered textures. At which point, Raye draws his characteristic ace from the deck: bright, subtle vocals. “Tangled emotions/ Deep as the ocean/ Don’t know where I begin/I won’t forget you/ Now that I let you crawl underneath my skin.” Not the most inventive. Doesn’t have to be with Raye’s pleasant voice threading through the arrangement. Nailing everything down is the guy’s ability to write a melody you can feel.
“Like It Or Not” fascinates. Out of all the disc’s fine cuts, this one best establishes Raye as an artist of consequence. Like Sebastian’s “Do You Believe In Magic,” like Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light,” it is one of those incredible tunes that just take you away.
It should very interesting to see what this guy does next. Trust me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor to check out Benjamin Raye.
Photo courtesy Bejamin Raye