Invisible Birds (Country-Town, 1996)
Reviewed by Jana Pendragon
Will Ray is a stalwart of the West Coast country/roots music scene. A long-time member of the infamous Hellecasters, Ray is also a much in-demand guitarist. Like peers Dwight Yoakam, Rosie Flores and Jim Lauderdale, Ray makes music that can't be mistaken for anything, but his own brand. Of the 14 cuts here, all self-produced to perfection, standouts include "That's History," "Bless Me Father" and the very original "Nagged to Death." Also good is "Flame Thrower" and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." All tunes either rock or shuffle and twang with raw energy. Lyrically, Ray is just as interesting with influences including Ray Charles, Sons of the Pioneers and Cash. Demanding that his audience think for themselves, Ray places himself beyond the reach of the pop schlock currently passing for country music on radio. Given support by some of the West Coast's finest players, including Jay Dee Maness, Ray comes across as a bright intense meteor firing up the night sky and leaving everything in its wake forever changed. Accomplished and skilled, this is an eclectic romp through music created by an outstanding artist of integrity.