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Sugaray Rayford

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Sugaray Rayford ‘s early years were full of turmoil. His mother struggled to raise three boys alone while battling cancer. "She suffered and we suffered," Rayford says. "Then, we moved in with my grandmother and our lives improved. We ate every day and we were in church every day, which I loved. I grew up in gospel and soul.” Rayford began his musical career at the tender age of seven, singing and playing drums in church, and his gospel influences definitely shine through in his music. The soulful rasp and emotive vocal style hint at his first-hand experience with hardship, and a childhood marked by poverty and loss.

As an African American youth growing up in poverty, Rayford, like many in these communities, saw two paths out, drugs or the military. Rayford chose The Marines and served for 10 years. But Rayford doesn’t fit widely held perceptions of the military as is evident in the lyrics of songs like “Time to Get Movin’” or “Dark Night of The Soul.” Sugar recalls, “Eric (Corne) and I talked about the traditions of soul music and the powerful social messages of artists like Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke and James Brown. We both felt strongly about social justice and wanted that to be a focus of the music. But to offset the darker side we wanted to be sure to include songs expressing light and love and that’s what you get with “You and I”, “Is it Just Me” and the two beautiful ballads, “My Cards Are On The Table” and “Somebody Save Me.” Somebody Save Me is an ambitious album that slides gracefully between the new blues of Gary Clarke Jr. and Fantastic Negrito, the sensual grooves of Teddy Pendergrass and the vintage Daptones vibe of the late Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, bringing a fresh take to classic sounds.

Somebody Save Me was written and produced by Forty Below Records founder Eric Corne. Best known for his work with blues legends John Mayall and Walter Trout, Corne and Forty Below have also launched the careers of several talented new artists, such as Sam Morrow, Jaime Wyatt and KaiL Baxley. A number of mainstays from Corne productions feature strongly here including guitarist Rick Holmstrom (Mavis Staples), bassist Taras Prodaniuk (Dwight Yoakam), drummer Matt Tecu (Jakob Dylan), keyboardist Sasha Smith (Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop), guitarist Eamon Ryland (The Happy Mondays) and the horn section from Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Corne recorded the bulk of the record live and the chemistry of the performances infuses the songs with a spontaneity and raw emotion.

Sugaray’s first solo album was Blind Alley, a self-released affair I 2010. In May 2011, Rayford joined The Mannish Boys. He sang lead vocals on nine of the songs on their album, Double Dynamite, that won the Best Traditional Blues Album title in May 2013 at the Blues Music Awards. Dangerous followed in 2013, Southside (2015) then The World We Live In (2017.) Rayford himself has been nominated for over a dozen BMA’s, including Vocalist of the Year as well as multiple nominations for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

If you listen closely to Sugaray’s music, or even better, attend a concert, you will hear a mélange of black roots music including soul, blues, funk, gospel, jazz, rock n’ roll and even shades of reggae and hip hop. "Think back to, say, the Golden days of Chess and people like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters; then factor in the sound of classic soul men like Solomon Burke and add a sprinkle of the big voiced icons like Teddy P and you're getting near to the sound of Sugaray Rayford. Float that over an authentic soul backing in the manner of Daptone and Stax and you're getting near to the sound of 'Somebody Save Me'." - Soul & Jazz & Funk.