Ray Bonneville: Easy Gone

ray bonneville
Ray Bonneville
Easy Gone
(Red House)
Rating: 4 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

“Colorful” is an adjective that doesn’t even come close to describing Ray Bonneville’s eventful life story. His bio is too diffuse and sprawling to recap here, but it’s packed with world travels that have provided him with enough observations about the human condition to fill many albums with perceptive songs. One of those, 2008’s Goin’ By Feel, is an apt description of the organic, swampy approach he favors. His dusky, world weary vocals (similar to those of Randall Bramblett), sparse arrangements, dark understated guitar and sorrowful harp impeccably capture the forlorn, occasionally bitter vibe expressed in lyrics to songs such as “Where Has My Easy Gone” “Love is Wicked” and “Lone Freighter’s Wail.” In this sense Hank Sr.’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” the disc’s sole cover, is among good company.

Credit goes to producer Justin Douglas who captures Bonnevile’s distinct sound in a sympathetic, atmospheric environment. He combines a stripped down band– just Gurf Morlix’s bass and skeletal drums– with a late night, uncluttered simplicity perfectly in sync with Bonneville’s descriptive yet often dreamy lyrics. It’s that underlying mystery that makes a tune like “Mile Marker #41” ooze with a creepy vibe of impending doom from a protagonist who might be a murderer, a madman, or both.

The closing solo acoustic “Two Bends in the Road” encapsulates many of the uncertainties of the other tunes when he sings “some things are better left unsaid,” with his typically been-there-done-that casualness. On Easy Gone, Ray Bonneville is again going by feel, clearly the best approach for a stunning yet minimalist songwriter like him to proceed.

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