In “Please Take My Hand,” Rayford brings out the voices of generations who fought and lovingly persevered in the face of oppression, accompanied only by a spare bass drum, hand claps and a cowbell. Rayford told Relix Magazine, “This song is about unity regardless of color, religion, race or creed. We all live on the same planet, so we’re all brothers and sisters.” Relix hosts exclusive premiere of “Please Take My Hand” here.
A modern take on retro soul, In Too Deep explores themes of love, loneliness and relevant social issues of today. The album features the partnership between soul-blues powerhouse and producer/songwriter Eric Corne. The couple’s first collaboration, Somebody Save Me, earned Rayford a 2020 Grammy nomination. Later that year, Rayford won Blues Music Awards for “Soul Blues Male Artist” and “BB King Entertainer of the Year.” “.
Summer 2021 saw the release of the adventurous single “Homemade Disaster”. The song has found its way to several retro-soul and new blues playlists on Spotify, with PopMatters stating that the track “will appeal to fans of Gary Clark Jr. and Chicano Batman”.
In Too Deep opens with “Invisible Soldier,” a song inspired by the 10-year Navy veteran’s struggles with insomnia due to PTSD. The track is a reminder that our cities and communities are teeming with veterans struggling with the aftershocks of war and how invisible it is to most fellow citizens because they are in civilian clothes. Soul Tracks hosted the world premiere and said “‘Invisible Soldier’ was a musical expression of the battles our troops are fighting long after the guns have fallen silent.” Up’ and ‘Retro Road Trip’, and Apple Music’s ‘Roadhouse’.
Rayford is a dynamic performer known for challenging his band with sudden shifts in feel and style. It thrives on funky up-tempo grooves, as evidenced by another standout song, “Miss Information” premiered in American Songwriter which stated that “Rayford’s voice emerges with a depth few can replicate. Spiritually, the lyrics by Rayford draw on his gospel and blues influences while embracing today’s sentiments.The track has previously appeared on BBC2’s The Blues Show with Cerys Matthews and BBC6’s Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show. has also been playlisted on Spotify’s “Got Blues”, “In The Name Of The Blues”, Apple Music’s “Roadhouse” and YouTube’s “Grown Folks Choice”.
Rayford reveals a completely different side to the soulful and sensual “No Limit to My Love”. The track features expressive orchestral harp, horns, flutes and strings plus some of the funkiest lead guitar this side of Bobby Womack, courtesy of Eamon Ryland. He could fit in with both Silk Sonic and Bobby Blue Bland.
“Golden Lady of the Canyon” is a lush, soul-country-flavored ballad infused with strings, brass, and Stax-style guitar work by Mavis Staples bandleader Rick Holmstrom. Rayford’s soulful croon rises and falls plaintively; it’s sure to please fans of the title track from his Grammy-nominated album, Somebody Save Me.
Although not mentioned directly, you can see many songs through the lens of the pandemic. This is the case of the Jackson 5 which recalls, tinged with Gospel “Gonna Lift You Up”; “Breathless/Out of luck/The mountain is steep/And you feel stuck/Don’t be heartbroken/The world is just moving/Keep moving/Never give up/I’ll lift you up. “
Horn’s production paints unique vignettes with each arrangement to suit the mood of the lyrics and Rayford’s deft interpretations and performances. Corne enlisted some serious heavyweight friends to help orchestrate the strings and horns on the record, with violinist Eric Gorfain (Dionne Warwick, REM) and Rayford’s current band saxophonist Aaron Liddard (Amy Winehouse) , respectively. Also featured are three mainstays of Corne’s studio work, Taras Prodaniuk (Lucinda Williams), Matt Tecu (Jacob Dylan) and Sasha Smith (Priscilla Ahn) as well as Rayford’s live musical director, Drake “Munkihaid” Shining.
Sugaray Rayford’s live shows are wild dance parties, but in essence, he’s a rousing unifier. Some conversations may occur and some self-reflections may occur, but people walk away with a feeling of joy and togetherness at the end of the day. This shines through in the album’s closest, the slinky and funky “United We Stand”. Then, as the album fades, Rayford drives us home with concert banter and good vibes, a feeling that lingers, enticing the listener to play again.