On the Blind Side
Juno Award winner and multiple Juno nominee, the Quebec-born, well-traveled and currently Austin-based blues and roots artist Ray Bonneville returns with his tenth solo album, On the Blind Side. This is Bonneville’s post-pandemic release, and understandably may be even more introspective than some previous efforts, leaning a bit more autobiographical while still retaining the imagery and rich character portraits that have graced past efforts. He speaks of hard living and more often resides in the shadows than in the light. Bonneville’s main collaborators here in a his typically stripped-down approach are co-producer, bassist and guitarist Will Sexton and drummer Rick Richards with others such as long-time contributors keyboardist Richie Lawrence and bassist Amy LaVere in these nine originals. Bonneville who sings, plays guitar and harmonica, takes his time between records as his last, At King Electric dates to 2018, which followed a four-year gap.
Here he begins on the bright side, galloping along on “Lucky Moon” encouraging help from a lucky old fried to influence his lover to return. “Oh the Night is Long” is basically one simple rhythmic motif stretched across three short vignettes with Sexton filling the spaces to a perky rhythm from Richards. The drummer crafts another clever pattern for “The Way It Was Before,” the tale of a frustrated lover struggling to find the right words to reconcile with his significant other after a serious argument. “Never Get the Love Thing Right” benefits from Lawrence’s electric piano as the self-pitying protagonist sings to himself while walking the levee in the fog, rather unbelievably finding a silver lining in the second half of the tune.
The title track is one of the deeper ones as Bonneville reflects on childhood and recounting some of the observations he regrets not having made. Andy Bohren, who drums on this one, has a much more straightforward approach than the more intricate Richards. Said another way, it allows Bonneville and the accompanying sonics to be more melodic than on many of the other tracks. It’s a standout track. On “Night Cab” Bonneville sings in haunting tones in his trademark style about shady characters, in this case a cab driver who gets more than just the wrong directions. Bonneville, having been a cab driver in three different cities, had this one flowing easily from his pen. This kind of storytelling is clearly his forte, punctuated by “I’ll never forget that face.”
“Made Yourself a Home” has a similar aggressive rhythmic approach to the earlier tracks, with the guitars resonating behind Bonneville’s rather haunting vocal, trying to shake his obsession with a certain her. Obsession is also at the heart of “Streetcar Man,” another with nifty piano from Lawrence that elevates the already uplifted streetcar commuter who looks forward to an elusive female with whom he is infatuated. “Even with Time” closes as the ever reflecting and challenging the status quo Bonneville debunks the notion that ‘time heals all things.’ Certain images and memories never let go. In that sense, Bonneville is not only speaking from his own experience; his point here is universally relatable.
Bonneville is more direct on this effort, sharing provocative thoughts that we all hold but are reluctant to share, succinctly expressed in his infectious tunes.
- Jim Hyne
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