16 Songs, 45 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

This collection of covers from Gemma Ray, recorded over several days, recasts the tunes with brilliant new insights. The slide guitars that solely line the stalking noir of Gallon Drunk’s “Put The Bolt In the Door,” the harmonies that reinforce the menace of Lee Hazlewood’s “I’d Rather Be Your Enemy,” the slow blues that overrides Mudhoney’s “Touch Me, I’m Sick” all make for a spooky collection where Ray’s previous retro-soul is put aside for the B-movie impact of this rudimentary collection. “Rosemary’s Baby vs. Drunken Butterfly” may be the album’s most technically accurate and descriptive title. Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” transforms from a giddy little pop number into a heartbroken ballad with the slightest of help from percussionist Matt Verta-Ray. The album is a transfixing piece of lo-fi majesty where every tune is turned into a dark ride into the eternal night of the blues. Alex Harvey’s “Swampsnake” kicks into overdrive, while tunes such as “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart” sound less like pleas than threats.

EDITORS’ NOTES

This collection of covers from Gemma Ray, recorded over several days, recasts the tunes with brilliant new insights. The slide guitars that solely line the stalking noir of Gallon Drunk’s “Put The Bolt In the Door,” the harmonies that reinforce the menace of Lee Hazlewood’s “I’d Rather Be Your Enemy,” the slow blues that overrides Mudhoney’s “Touch Me, I’m Sick” all make for a spooky collection where Ray’s previous retro-soul is put aside for the B-movie impact of this rudimentary collection. “Rosemary’s Baby vs. Drunken Butterfly” may be the album’s most technically accurate and descriptive title. Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” transforms from a giddy little pop number into a heartbroken ballad with the slightest of help from percussionist Matt Verta-Ray. The album is a transfixing piece of lo-fi majesty where every tune is turned into a dark ride into the eternal night of the blues. Alex Harvey’s “Swampsnake” kicks into overdrive, while tunes such as “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart” sound less like pleas than threats.

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About Gemma Ray

British pop music has plenty of retro-soul and R&B acts, but the recordings of singer/songwriter Gemma Ray reveal a more complex and restless artistic nature than most. Reaching back to pre-Beatles rock for inspiration -- but tossing in a jumble of influences including the torch songs of Billie Holiday, film scores, flamenco, and more -- Ray has sculpted a sound that is familiar and warm, but also appealingly off-kilter and full of noir-ish touches.

The Essex native released her first album, The Leader, in early 2008 on the U.K.-based indie label Bronzerat. Aloft on a cloud of positive reviews from the British press, she was about to embark on a tour when she became ill and had to cancel a number of profile-raising shows. While recuperating, Ray wrote a batch of new songs and recorded them in a modest home studio with co-producer Michael J. Sheehy. The resulting Lights Out Zoltar!, released in late 2009, was an ambitious work that belied its homemade origins by boasting an expansive concert hall sound. Ray took the opposite approach for her third album, It's a Shame About Gemma Ray, which found her covering 16 songs (ranging from Buddy Holly's "Everyday" to Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick") in spooky, stripped-down versions. She continued to stretch out artistically on her more pop-oriented 2012 album Island Fire, which found her not only covering two songs by Sparks, but also collaborating with the band. A year later she released the vinyl-only Down Baby Down, a more experimental record with help from Thomas Wydler of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. The prolific run continued in 2014 with her sixth full-length, Milk for Your Motors, recorded upon Ray's relocation to Berlin. She returned in 2016 with The Exodus Suite, a nearly hour-long set of torch songs with lead vocals and core band recorded live at Candy Bomber Studios in Berlin. ~ Paula Carino

HOMETOWN
Basildon, Essex, England

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