Cody Canada and Mike McClure are popular traveling troubadours in their native Texas and Oklahoma respectively, songsmiths with a decided knack for rugged Americana and songs of serendipity and circumstance. For those unawares, "Chip & Ray Together Again for the First Time" makes an ideal primer, with both men performing solo live in concert while showcasing the best their respective resumes have to offer. Although it's uncertain who's Chip and who is Ray, it matters little. The songs possess the same irreverent yet heartfelt tones, sung with a dusty perspective and a robust enthusiasm that makes them all the more affecting.
Songs gleaned from experience dominate the proceedings here, be it McClure's tale of marital mistakes and miscues, "Lucky Man," or Canada's rousing "Inbetweener," a song which the audience is clearly tapped into. There are somber songs interspersed throughout this two-CD set, but given this lively in-studio setting, it's the rowdier numbers that befit them best. McClure, formerly with The Great Divide, seems especially adept at rousing the crowd with his between song patter, but even when tongue is positioned well in cheek, a tune like "Another Holiday" carries a certain amount of pathos in its bittersweet reflection. Likewise, his touching tribute to his wife of 18 years, the beguiling "Hotel Band" makes a decided imprint and impression.
In truth, the two men possess such similar styles, it takes a glimpse at the track listing to tell who is performing what. Indeed, when Canada, long-time lead singer with Cross Canadian Ragweed, follows McClure's melancholy "Another Holiday" with his own "Pay," a song which dwells on a similar theme revolving around drugs and despair, the segue is so seamless, it could be either man at the microphone. That's the reason this 35-song set works so well. Two compatible creative types doing what they do best, and doing it in sync. They may be playing together again for the first time, but let's hope it's not the last.