While queueing to see one of The Bluebird sessions at C2C 2016, one of the most forceful recommendations of the whole weekend came from a Security guard, who said you should have been here last night to see Ray Peters and The Smokey Turtle Band. They must have done something right as they have once again been selected to play at C2C 2017, handily they have released a cd of the final rehearsals from last year, and very fine it is as well.
Ray is a seasoned professional and is to be found playing across the country most weeks, as part of a duo, a trio or as on this record as a five piece, playing a blend of his tunes, mixed in with some well chosen cover versions of songs, by artists such as Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson and Billy Currington among others.
One can only imagine the atmosphere, in the Water Margin saloon, as they went from Rodney’s “She’s Crazy For Leaving”, through Waylon Jennings “Where Corn Don’t Grow”, to their own composition, “Gold Fever” with a hint of Dire Straits guitar, thrown in for good measure. “Gold Fever” is the tale of the 1897 Gold rush, and the desperation to find the precious metal “to walk the rich mans’ road”. The songs sit quite happily alongside each other and that is just the opening three songs.
Live albums (of which this sort of is) can sometimes be a let-down but this has captured a band at the peak of their powers, really enjoying themselves. Concentrating on the home written tunes “Tears That You Cry” is a slow building ballad, a truly heartfelt song written by Ray for his wife upon the loss of her parents. It comes full of sentiment as you’d expect but also is wrapped around a decent tune making this a fitting tribute as well as a comfort. It is the sort of song that works especially well in the country genre.
“You Don’t Love Me No More” is a more traditional country romp, with some great guitar work from Dean Barnes & Dave Hayward on electric and pedal steel guitars respectively.
There is a sweeping guitar intro into “When We Were Young” that sets the scene for a tale of love from the schoolyard, a love “young and innocent”. As the song unfolds it turns out he has moved away but still yearns for something like the love he had in those days. Once again, the guitar work makes this relatively simple idea into a great song.
The album serves as fine introduction, to the sound of Ray Peters and the Smokey Turtle Band, and should serve as an appetizer to seeing them later in the year at C2C 2017 or indeed at one of their many shows.