The veteran Calgary soul bluesman Donald Ray Johnson released his first solo CD in 1994 after many years in the trenches. There have been four more since then and a career retrospective that gathers together his compositions from them is a very good idea. Each of his albums contained favourite songs by others and a couple are here, like Al Green’s “Ain’t No Fun To Me”, Johnny Taylor’s “Last Two Dollars” and Hazel Dickens’ “Working Girl Blues”, but the ten he wrote belong in this company: “These Blues”, “Here To Stay”, “Me & Jack (Daniels)” and “It’s Time” to name just some. If you haven’t yet heard Johnson’s rich, warm baritone, you’re in for a treat. The recording sessions involved many of the best musicians in Calgary and points west and all are unreservedly recommended. He gave me an earlier version of this disc at the last Blues Summit and it had an excellent, live version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Hello Central”, I hope there’s more where that one came from. I’d also like to draw your attention to another project he’s involved with and that’s The Ray Charles Tribute Orchestra, for which he’s the vocalist. Calgary’s John Gray, a former member of Ray’s band, is the bandleader. There are audio samples at www.raycharlestributeorchestra.com. As a drummer & vocalist, he also still tours with Chicago’s Maurice John Vaughan, www.donaldray.com shows that band just finished a Quebec tour, pity it didn’t stop here.

September 2013 - Kim Richardson
John's Blues Picks September 2013 - Daddy Long Legs