This entry is excerpted from its original on Country Fried Rock, where there is a link to a free, legal download.
Boo Ray calls Athens, Georgia, Los Angeles, and Nashville all “home” because wherever he hangs his trucker hat, is more home than the mountains of western North Carolina from where he originally hails. Ray is very comfortable with himself; whether others “get” him or not matters none. As a tween he picked up the guitar and was quickly run off by the academics of scales, and distanced himself from playing until he was inspired several years later to lock himself in the bedroom until he learned to play Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny.” He grew up in Cullowee, NC, and was dying to get away from the ornery old flat pickers, and escaped to Athens, GA for some “culture.”
Boo Ray spent his teens playing R&B and hanging out with rappers in Atlanta, all the while wearing his tank top t-shirts, tattooed arms and trucker hats. They were as much laughing at him as with him, but it was influential nonetheless. He’s drawn to the “perfect summer song” of an R&B hit, and loves the beat of such music, although his own writing and playing is quite different. Like a good Southerner, Ray is greatly influenced by his variety of cousins, especially in his early musical influences and life-legends. Boo Ray can spin a yarn, as when asked about the influence of “family” on his music. “All the women in my family are from Louisiana, which is why all the men of my family are dead.” His affinity for Cajun culture is more than his card game homophone name; Ray tops the Americana listener polls regularly with his catchy “Allez Allez” tune.
He tried to deny who he really is, and thought he was escaping that country element of his past by going out West, but what he found was that who he really is meant more to listeners, and it was okay to be country. Although the LA vibe energizes creative folks like Boo Ray, eventually he got homesick for fish & grits and sweet tea, which led to his excellent blog. Californians liked the way he talked, but he missed the South and it came out in his writing. He hung out with “ex-patriot” Southern songwriters in southern California who appreciated his snap-shirts and grey Levi’s, fulfilling the tried and true method of Southerners who go to California to find their Southern identity. He knew that the sounds he wanted needed to come from different locales, so he ended up relocating back to Georgia.
Ray enjoys the variety of people with whom he has gotten to play and write, from a former member of the Circle Jerks to the writer of one of George Strait’s hits. “Show up with a well-written, coherent song and let players do their thing,” as he says, and, “Rusty money don’t make a jukebox sing.” Ray loves language, and finds the sounds and meanings work their way into his music in ways he never planned. He might intend to begin with a guitar groove and end up incorporating one of those turns of phrase into a lyric. He credits some heavy hitters (“monster players” and “monster writers” as Ray says) with both their influences on him and their role as exemplar of a skill. The world according to Boo:
- Shane MacGowan is the most sincere poet on the planet, especially “Dirty Old Town.”
- Tom Waits is the best living lyricist.
- Mark Twain knew the most about how Southerners use language.