Blues Underground Network
Kay Kay And The Rays "The Best Of"
CATFOOD RECORDS ANNOUNCES NOVEMBER 15, 2011 RELEASE OF THE BEST OF KAY KAY AND THE RAYS COMPILATION CD
NEW DISC SHOWCASES 15 TRACKS FROM THREE ALBUMS BY THE POWERFUL TEXAS BAND THAT FUSED SOUL, FUNK AND BLUESEL PASO, TX – Catfood Records announces a November 15 release date for the 15-track compilation CD, The Best of Kay Kay and the Rays, with national distribution by City Hall Records. The new retrospective includes tracks from all three of the band’s recorded catalogue: Kay and the Rays Featuring Abner Burnett (1999), Texas Justice (2001) and Big Bad Girl (2003).
"The song ‘Big Bad Girl’ says, ‘she was six feet one with three inch heels.’ That was Kay Kay, the big woman with the big voice who could bring the crowd to its feet cheering," states the album’s liner notes in its extensive history of the band. "The music of Kay Kay and the Rays was a fusion of soul, funk and blues. The lyrics were often social commentary."
That last comment is right on the money, for the band’s lyrics pulled no punches in jabbing at powerful corporations, politicians or superficiality. Songs such as "Junk Blues," "Stop the Killing" and "Lord Save Me from L.A." took dead aim at social and political injustices. And the tracks "Lone Star Justice," "Enron Field" and "Texas Justice – Billy’s Story" all resonated with truths that often provoked outrage from certain people in power (some tunes were even banned from airplay) in the Lone Star State, while endearing them to the crowds of people who cheered their live shows and bought their albums.
Aside from their songs with powerful messages, Kay Kay and the Rays also exemplified the best of classic soul, blues, gospel and funk on such tracks as "No Mama’s Boys," "Hey Big Boy," "Don’t Have to Tell Me," Hold On to What You Got" (featuring a killer duet with Kay Kay and Johnny Rawls trading verses and layering harmonies in the best tradition of Stax Records), "Love Me Baby" and the R&B chestnut, "They’ll Come a Time," that closes the set. The Best of Kay Kay and the Rays showcases a band of immense grit, soul and musicality, with a dynamic rhythm section, funky guitar work and punchy horns, led by a singer who’s one of the best of her generation. On these tracks, Kay Kay is sexy, soulful, tender, sassy, playful and gutsy – often within the same song.
Kay Kay and the Rays were formed in 1997 by keyboardist Abner Burnett and bass player/songwriter Bob Trenchard in Odessa, Texas. Abner was told about a talented gospel singer he needed to hear by the owner of a club in town called Sam’s Blues and Barbeque. Kay Kay Greenwade auditioned and soon the name of the band was changed from The Abner Burnett Blues Band to Kay Kay and the Rays.
The group began playing clubs on weekends in West Texas and recorded their first album, Kay Kay and the Rays Featuring Abner Burnett (more or less a demo for clubs) in 1999. Not long after that, they were discovered by the great soul blues singer Johnny Rawls. When Burnett moved to Mexico in 2000, Bob Trenchard became the leader by default. Bob had opened a large Odessa nightclub and named it Kay Kay’s Blues Club earlier that year. The band drew capacity crowds when they played the club, with eight musicians on stage - including four horns - backing Kay Kay.
Johnny Rawls produced the band’s next album, Texas Justice, in 2001, which gained the group national attention. Not long after that, the blues club, which featured regional and national acts, met the inevitable fate of a large blues club in West Texas and closed. For the next three years the band toured regionally and nationally, gaining increased popularity. They played top venues like the House of Blues in Boston, Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego, Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco and Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago; and did four tours from Texas to Florida, traveling all the way down to Key West. The 2003 performance of the band at the WC Handy Festival was broadcast as an hour long program on PBS stations across the country.
Also in 2003, the band released its Big Bad Girl album, produced by multiple Grammy winner Jim Gaines, which received rave reviews, resulting in the Big Bad Girl CD hitting the top ten blues radio charts. During Easter weekend in 2004, Kay Kay and the Rays played at the five day, sold out East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Australia as part of a tour there. The Australian weekly music publication Inpress wrote of the band: "The best of the Fest was a photo finish between Dr. John, Kay Kay and the Rays and Solomon Burke. Kay Kay can sing in the true tradition of black female vocalists and is a cross between Koko and Aretha. The Rays were wild and smokin’ and included a dynamo sax player."
Family tragedies caused the band to break up a few months later after tours to Florida and California. Kay Kay has since suffered a stroke and other medical problems which make a reunion unlikely. The Rays get back together to record and back Johnny Rawls when he tours in the Southwest. They have backed him on four albums and are also the studio band for other Catfood Records albums. The music on this CD reminds us that Kay Kay and the Rays really were a "seamless blend of soul and funk" as they were described by Blues Revue and that Kay Kay Greenwade had "established herself as a leading light of contemporary blues" as noted by Living Blues.
For more information, visit www.catfoodrecords.com.
Listen To Various Tracks Here...
Following Review By David Bowling (BlogCritics.com)
A lot of good music is produced in this country, and much of it, like that of Kay Kay and the Rays, just slips under the radar without notice. The Abner Burnett Blues Band, led by keyboardist Abner Burnett and bassist/songwriter Bob Trenchard, were looking for a singer back in 1997; enter six-foot-plus Kay Kay Greenwade. With a name change, Kay Kay and The Rays was thus born.
Burnett departed in 2000, after which Trenchard and Greenwade took over the band’s leadership. He and Kay Kay co-wrote 10 of the album's 15 tracks. While the band was rooted in the blues, Kay Kay’s vocals often took them in R&B, funk, and gospel directions. The band has had a large rotating cast of musicians, the most prominent of which were saxophonist Andy Roman, drummers Richie Puga & Tommy Taylor, and guitarists Steve Lott & Johnny Rawls.
They have released three albums, Kay Lay And The Rays (1999), Texas Justice (2001), and Big Bad Girl (2003). In the time since, Greenwade has been hindered by a stroke, and so it is unlikely that any more studio releases are forthcoming. The Rays now back guitarist/singer Johnny Rawls in the studio and on the road.
The Best Of Kay Kay And The Rays gathers the best 15 tracks from their three albums, providing a fine retrospective as well as a fitting conclusion to their career.
Their lyrics have always had some bite, as illustrated in such songs as "Junk Blues," "Stop The Killing," and "Lord Save Me From L.A.," which address issues of social and political justice. "Lone Star Justice," "Enron Field," and "Texas Justice-Billy’s Story," likewise, confronts the ruling class and power structure.
Some light, danceable, and fun songs round out those lyrically rougher edges, particularly with "No Mama’s Boys," "Hey Big Boy," and "Don’t Have To Tell Me," which sound like something right out of a smokey roadhouse bar.
Indeed bands come and go without garnering much notice at times, but Kay Kay and The Rays have left behind some well-produced music with grit and emotion. Their dynamic rhythms, stellar guitar work, rousing brass section at times, and Kay Kay Greenwade’s booming voice — which could be soulful, sexy, sassy, and playful — combined to make some fine music. Kay Kay and The Rays will never be a household name but their music will always shine brightly.