Boo Ray’s Newest Studio Album, ‘Sea of Lights’ Has a Connection to Legends
Boo Ray‘s newest studio album, Sea of Lights, has a very cool — if mildly overwhelming — historical connection to two of the country and folk genre’s biggest icons, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan: The 2″ tape machine on which the singer-songwriter and his band recorded the project was the same one used to record Dylan’s 1969 album Nashville Skyline and the records that Cash made in Nashville.
Boo Ray’s producer, Noah Shain, had brought the machine out to his White Buffalo Studio, located in Los Angeles, and convinced the alt-country / Americana artist to head out to the West Coast to record his fifth studio album.
“[Shain] said, ‘Get out here and do a record with me,'” Boo Ray recalls to The Boot — and since he had some money from a publishing deal, “instead of payin’ bills and takin’ care of myself, I went and made a record with Noah.”
Together, Boo Ray and Shain — who also produced Boo Ray’s 2010 release, Bad News Travels Fast — threw together an all-star band for the session (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ drummer Steve Ferrone; bassist Paul Ill; guitarist Sol Philcox-Littlefield; Dallas Kruse on the Hammond B3 organ; pedal steel player Smith Curry; and twin brothers Todd and Troy Gardner providing background vocals) and cut the disc’s 10 songs in two days.
“It’s just this great group of people that we all got together to track this record live in a room … and it was just fast and furious, and we had a ball,” Boo Ray recalls. “The tape machines actually respond … and so it encourages the whole band to be more responsive … and the producer, who’s also the tape machine mechanic, he’s like another band member.”
Sea of Lights takes its name from its second tune, “a big, emotional track” that’s “like a panoramic snapshot of … the period of time that led up to the record,” but Boo Ray says a couple of fan favorites have emerged as he’s played the new songs live: “Redneck Rock & Roll,” the record’s opening cut, and the penultimate “One More Round.” The latter, the singer says he often gets compliments on after shows, “when [the fans] are well-lubricated and talkative.”
On Sea of Lights, just before “One More Round,” there’s a cover of “Emmaline,” a Top 10 release from British soul band Hot Chocolate in the mid-1970s. While that might seem an odd pairing, Boo Ray says he loves the band and the song, and is “tickled” with how his version came out.
“When a song creeps into my consciousness enough that, without provocation, I just end up working with it in a physical way — I put my hands on the guitar and start playing parts of the song, and not because I need to or have to, but just because it happens — that’s when those kind of songs are important, I think — when it’s a real natural thing,” he muses, noting that he tried to make his version of “Emmaline” “a little bit more” than just a cover.
Sea of Lights also contains a song that Boo Ray fans have heard before: He re-recorded Bad News Travels Fast‘s title track for this new release, giving the tune “a new life, and sort of a second chance, production wise.”
“I love the song …,” Boo Ray explains, “and I felt it deserved a top-shelf chance, production wise.”
Although Sea of Lights is only a few months old, 2017 will hold new music from Boo Ray. He and Shain, along with his touring band, met back up in Nashville in early December to record, again live to tape, for another album.
“I’ve been writing a ton for a long time, so I’ve got a bunch of songs,” Boo Ray says. “It might be a little bit more songwriter-y … and a little bit less ‘yahoo.'”
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