Sugaray Rayford - Dangerous

With a band like this, Dangerous is a can't-miss proposition
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If you're at all familiar with the Delta Groove label - home to, among others, the Mannish Boys, the fluid aggregation Sugaray Rayford has been fronting for some time now - you'll know roughly what to expect from Dangerous.

Delta Groove production is usually brassy and ballsy, and label honcho Randy Chortkoff - in addition to contributing harmonica to three tracks, he's listed as Executive Producer and Co-Producer - likes to mix things up with an extensive guest list - in addition to Rayford and Chortkoff, credits list no fewer than fourteen additional musicians.

The thing is, though, that every participant involved is a consummate pro, the very cream of the crop.  Chortkoff, no slouch himself on harp, is relieved by the likes of Sugar Ray Norcia (who trades verses on a tune written for the project, called, rather obviously, "Two Times Sugar"), Big Pete, and Kim Wilson.  Guitarists include Franck Goldwasser, Kid Anderson, and Monster Mike Welch, while keys are handled by Fred Kaplan and Anthony Geraci.  Willie J. Campbell is on electric bass, Bill Stuve acoustic bass, and Jimi Bott the drummer throughout.

It's quite a crowd - there are horns as well - and there's usually a lot going on, but Rayford has a big voice and a commanding presence, holding his own quite nicely.  Though it's all pure blues there's lots of variety , from gutbucket grinders like the titular "I'm Dangerous" to the California-by-way- of-Texas "When It Rains It Pours."  Rayford seems equally comfortable as a blues shouter up against a big band, or getting down and dirty and yes, dangerous, on harp-driven tunes like "Goin' Back To Texas" and the stark and raw "Surrendered."  Also covered are Junior Parker's "In The Dark" and Charles Brown's "Depression Blues," with the bulk of the remainder written by Rayford and Chortkoff.

It's all absolutely impeccable, from the chiming acoustic guitars and tickety-tick percussion of "A Little More Time" to the easy swing of the sly "Stuck For A Buck," from the swampy shimmer of "Pretty Fine Mama" to the gospel-fervor climax of "Preaching Blues," and Rayford proves a captivating singer in any setting.

It's great stuff, classic music enlivened by the sheer passion and energy of players who've devoted their lives to it and continue to find it a timeless and true means of expression.  Rayford has emerged as a significant talent, and bands don't get any better.  This one's essential ...