Sugaray Rayford ‘The World That We Live In’ LP/CD/DIG (Blind Faith) 5/5

Big buzz on this from our editor in chief, Steve Williams, so you have to pay attention immediately and quite rightly too, from the outset this is serious black soul music with hints of the blues, not one for the faint hearted this.

So you think you’re into soul music, well this will put you to the test with real instruments, a voice that sounds like it’s been nurtured in smoke-filled, whiskey fuelled bars for decades, not unlike Little Milton in places which is right up my street. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a brand new 2017 release, and not some unissued album from back in the day. Of course, if like me you search for new product on a daily basis, then the fruits of your labour are there, St, Paul & The Broken Bones, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields etc. Well Sugaray is now sharing the stage with these icons. I kid you not.

Opening up with a mildly funky “Take Me Back”, and into the title track which is more of the same, the first track to really strike home is the glorious tripping “Don’t Regret A Mile”, lyrically sound and musically stunning – I can see this getting the feet slipping and a sliding on the more enlightened dance-floors of the scene. This is thinking mans soul music, percussion, bass, keys and a flute create a simply stunning backdrop. The bluesy stroller, “What Do We Own” fractures the silence with that smoky vocal doing battle with some intruding horns, the drummer demanding his presence be heard, I just love it. Dropping the pace for the horn led “Home Again” then, which allows for our man to excel vocally, drum, bass and some simple keys and then those muted horns arrive for the chorus, simple but so so addictive. The pace drops even further for the sublime “Keep Moving” and here’s where the Little Milton similarity comes to the fore – brilliant. I can’t get enough of this, sublime soul music. And so it continues into “Dig A Little Deeper”, the kind of tune that stops you dead in your tracks, it makes you listen, pay attention in anticipation as to what’s coming next, my track of the album so far, I just had to replay this several times loud, lyrically at the top of the game. Next up the Stax/Atlantic sounding “Ain’t Got No Business To Die”, which isn’t a million miles away from what Sam & Dave were knocking out in the halcyon days, a super little dancer. “The Boogie Man” is a fast shuffling dancer next before the album finishes with “Troubles”, kicking off with mournful horns before the thumping bass, percussion and what sounds like a Hammond/Wurlitzer and then were off on a very danceable ride.

Caron Nimoy “Sugaray” Rayford was born and raised in Texas in poverty. His mother raising three boys alone whilst battling cancer. The Church appears to have become his sanctuary attending every day with his musical career starting at the age of 7. The album was recorded at Italian soul ambassador Luca Sapio’s analogue studio in Italy, with racks of vintage gear and a killer house band they have created a timeless, simply wonderful southern influenced soul album. Without doubt my album of the year so far. Hats off to Blind Faith Records and the team behind this.

Brian Goucher