Singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica-player Ray Bonneville enjoys a strong reputation. Roll It Down (Red House Records, 2004) gave the popular Canadian credibility in U.S., picking up love-letter reviews from the prestigious press. Goin’ By Feel (Red House Records, 2008) did even better, snagging more enviable praise, winning industry awards, and getting his name around so well, he got to play on bills with famous blues folk and do session work with other artists. Now, he’s riding high with his new Red House release Bad Man’s Blood, already garnering kind words from the critics and gigging across North America and Europe. Guess it goes to show you don’t have to be all that extraordinary to attain remarkable success.
Ray Bonneville isn’t a half-bad musician, though. In fact, he has his shining moments, like the impressive cover of “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” he contributed to A Nod to Bob 2: An Artists Tribute to Bob Dylan on His 70th Birthday. Indeed, one of the few interesting things about Bad Man’s Blood is a more than passing vocal resemblance to the early Dylan, around the time of, say, Another Side of Bob Dylan. You will find here on Bonneville’s “Sugar and Riley” a hint of the sly drawl from “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met).” Indeed, the closer he comes to sounding like the old master, the better job he does. “Funny ‘Bout Love” perks up, a clear cut above the rest of Bad Man’s Blood and could almost be Dylan himself.
Joining Ray Bonneville are Gurf Morlix (guitar, bass, backing vocals), Mike Meadows (drums and percussion) and Dexter Payne (sax). The playing is pretty good, it’s just put too dubious use on mundane material.
All things considered, it’s enough to make you wonder what would come of a Ray-Bonneville-does-Bob-Dylan recording. It’d probably be a worthwhile endeavor. Bad Man’s Blood, though, just doesn’t pass muster. It is yawningly uninspired fare that just sits there taking up time that could’ve been better spent doing something else.
Photo courtesy Ray Bonneville