Feb
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Ray Lawrence Jr. Offers Up “More Raw Stuff”

February 1, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  12 Comments

ray-lawrence-jrIt’s funny how fate deems certain artists worthy of national recognition, while others work away in a small circuit of local bars their whole lives without their names being recognized outside of the city limits. Some artists labor greatly to attain national recognition, even if it is in scenes revolving around the internet, while others are content with being local legends. And then there’s talent, which doesn’t always match up with recognition. In fact it rarely does.

Ray Lawrence Jr. was graced favorably by recognition when Hank Williams III put two of his songs on his last album Ghost to a Ghost. Since then Ray has seen quite an uptick in attention and has toured some nationally and played some bigger shows outside of his home state of Arizona. But the appeal of Ray Lawrence Jr. is that his music still embodies the warmth and familiarity of the old local honky tonk Shakespeare that sits in the corner of the bar and slays you with the sincerity of their songs, never wanting anything more than to make music for friends and neighbors.

From Homeless to Hank3: The Story of Ray Lawrence Jr.

Like Chris Knight, Ray Lawrence Jr. is a simple man who has this sensational talent to be able to put defining moments of the human experience to words and music in a way that rekindles the feelings of those moments. Ray’s simplicity becomes his strength by imbibing his music with a blue collar, colloquial grace. Since Ray’s wisdom isn’t defined by a Master’s degree or a master vocabulary, it manifests itself in a cunning wit that takes themes and language culled from real life experiences, and weaves them into high art through honesty and authenticity of expression. Ray Lawrence Jr. has an experience and writes a song about that very experience in his own words. There is no degree of separation that dilutes the soul from the original experience in the song.

ray-lawrence-jr-more-raw-stuffAs the album title implies, More Raw Stuff accompanies Raw & Unplugged that Ray released as the first album with this stripped-down approach. But don’t let that imply that these songs are warmed-over seconds. More Raw Stuff has some of Ray’s most impressive works, including what I consider one of his crowning songs, “Homeless.” The excellent story and moral, the engrossing walking guitar part, it all embodies what makes Ray a songwriter and performer worth paying attention to beyond the Arizona border.

As More Raw Stuff also implies, this album is just Ray, his guitar, and a microphone cut open with a little bit of reverb. This approach will be a little too raw for some, and my sense when listening to this record is that Ray’s vocals could have been balanced with the guitar a little bit better, and his vocals a little more clear. But this album is about the art of the song, and the stripped-down approach of the recordings facilitate that focus. Ray and others who prefer this simple method to album making would probably benefit from taking the time to produce a more fleshed out sound. But a basic recording is better than none, and the bigger imperative was to get Ray’s songs to our ears and make them a matter of public record.

Country songwriting doesn’t get much better than Ray Lawrence’s “Piece of Paper.” If it wasn’t for Ray’s humble nature, you’d swear he was showboating in how he can take a common article and use it to articulate such an acute sense of heartbreak. “A Time That I Loved In Vain” has a real classic, timeless feel, and though you don’t think of Ray as an ace singer, his voice hits a sweet, soulful spot in “The Right Time To Leave You.” “Dicken’s Cider” and it’s alternate meaning is another masterful display of Ray’s wit, and though overall this is an album of heartbreak, there is an underlying sense of hope in many of the songs, especially in “Another Wedding Vow.”

The approach may be simple, and the music may be raw, but Ray is now two for two in proving he deserved the greater recognition Hank3 bestowed him, and worthy of a wider ear than what his local bar can tender. Ray Lawrence Jr. is America’s local honky tonk singer.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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 Preview & Purchase Tracks from More Raw Stuff

12 Comments to “Ray Lawrence Jr. Offers Up “More Raw Stuff””

  • 2/5 Ft.Worth Stockyards

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  • Ray is one hell of a songwriter and an even more impressive human being. Ray you and Heather are always welcome at the Bunker!

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  • I’m glad you gave ray Lawrence jr some recognition. I swear I thought you thought he was mediocre at first cause he was attached to what you thought of as a disappointing hank 3 record at the time. I loved those songs in it better than the songs on his first album. Now after reading this review I have to buy it soon as I get home. He truly is a sincere broken hearted man, and I feel that is what draws me to his raw music.

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  • I don’t care what anyone says, Ghost To A Ghost was an excellent record. It was riddled with breakdowns, rythym changes, and weird song structures, then backed with all of his usual guest musicians. The lyrics were his the same, ” life is very hard, so you better not take it to seriously, you don’t much time in the world so enjoy it” kind of themes he allways had. —————————— Ray Lawrence JR just put out a second album full of “heartbreak” songs, much like his first. Does he deserve a bad review? Hell no, he deserves a good review for maintaining the standard of quality most singers can’t achieve. ————— I’ve said my piece. I don’t want any arguments and other BS.

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  • I just wanted to say that this album Is my favorite I have listened to in a long time. Very impressed with his songwriting and the stripped down approach allowed the heartbreak to really hit me.

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  • thanks!!! didnt know he had a new one out and “raw and unplugged” is amazing

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  • I listen to this album and get a strong jimmie rodgers vibe. Love it

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  • First time I’ve heard him but his cowboy voice is too over the top for me.
    Perhaps he doesn’t sound like this all the time.

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    • If you are implying that Ray is doing a put on or inflecting his voice, having met him personally, and having interviewed him for over an hour once, I can tell you he is nothing but the real deal. Now if there is something about his voice you just don’t like, that’s a matter of taste, and can’t be argued.

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  • I would hope he wasn’t putting that on, glad to hear his voice is genuine.
    I’m sure you don’t think it’s a big stretch to think this however. There’s plenty of
    fake goings on goin on as I’m sure your well aware.
    Like I said though, it’s the first time I’ve heard him & your article talks about him being a good songwriter which makes an artist that much better.

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    • The inflected voice to try and sound Southern or just old is something I have my ears very perked for and keep a watchful eye out for in music. This is what has made me grow away from Old Crow Medicine Show and some other such bands. Maybe because I heard the story of Ray Lawrence Jr. before I heard the music, it never struck me as anything but authentic. I guess listening back now and trying to see it from that perspective, I could understand how someone might get that impression.

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  • Cool, glad to hear your against posers when it comes to voice.
    Not meaning to come off like I’m slamming Ray, give me a genuine singer songwriter
    ANY day. Speaking of posers, Eric Church just played here over the weekend..I wonder if he took his shades off. He’s such a Badass Outlaw.. I would have went, but oh ya,,, Poser! lol
    Authentic & Traditional… Guess that’s what I’m all about :)

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