It’s soulful, gritty, and down-to-Earth. Ray Prim is set to release To Whom It May Concern, his most courageous album to date, on September 15, with an official release party that night at The North Door in Austin with Suzanna Choffel opening the gig at 8 p.m. An exclusive premier of the true-to-life title track, “To Whom It May Concern,” is available below for your listening pleasure.
The album is a blend of themes and arrangements that advances Prim’s previous accomplishment. “Thanks to Black Fret, 512 Studios, Omar Vallejo and all the guest musicians….this is probably our best album to date…..I can definitely see this one going double Aluminum,” says the Austin-based soul singer/song-writer. The album was funded by Black Fret, a connected network of art advocates that support Austin musicians.
Confined to no limits, Prim and his team explore what it means to let the art take control. Pop sensibilities intertwine with funk, blues, and contemporary acoustic. Think John Mayer and Marvin Gaye shooting a round of pool in a smoky bar with Earth, Wind and Fire playing in the background, and that is Ray Prim.
Emotion is the force behind every track, whether it be from Prim or any of his talented bandmates. Tracks like “To Whom It May Concern,” “No Need,” and “From the Belly of a Whale” are overflowing with a fiery passion, though each encapsulates varying vibes.
Vocalist Mexican Chocolate often accompanies Prim for stripped-down acoustic shows, demonstrating the depth of what two people and a guitar can accomplish. It’s not fair to describe Mexican Chocolate (real name Mike Robledo) as a backup singer, because what he brings to the table is so much more than an extra voice. It’s another tender heart beating along with the rhythm of the song. “Stormy Haze” is dominated by the pairing of Mexican Chocolate and Prim, as both feed off the charisma and fragility of letting go and living in the moment.
With Prim’s ace up his sleeve, Mexican Chocolate, accenting key parts of tracks or even taking control of certain moments, it’s easy to tell that it’s not just Prim that’s full of talent. “Stormy Haze” was a collaborative effort from the entire group, with everyone offering ideas and suggestions to drive. The connectedness of the group in times like that is a very large part of what makes Prim’s music so special.
The ever-so-talented violinists of the group, April Stephens and Kristen Randolph, are the icing on the cake. Whether it be a smooth honey-like draw or a delicate pluck of the string, they own the note. “No Need,” a touching duet with Suzanna Choffel, features a beautiful string arrangement that was crafted by McCallum High School’s own Wil Brookhart.
The funky twist of “I Promise” is a highlight of the album. The Fresh 2 Def Horns turn the already well-crafted track into a true work of art. Prim and his team of musicians keep a hint of groove in every track. In a similar fashion, “Moving on Up” is a cheery funk-ballad with a wonderland of horns, strings, and gospel singing.
An acoustic guitar is Prim’s weapon of choice throughout the album, though an occasional electric lick is thrown into the mix from a guest artist, notably Andre Moran from Belle Sounds. Tate Farrar from Sunflower and 7 Stones along with Ady Hernandez of 80H Project added extra guitar support to the album while Dave Madden composed the strings on Prim’s emotive ‘Since 88‘. This is an expansion for the group, noting that there is no electric guitarist in the band. Prim reaching out to this is a part of his exploration into varying sounds and noisescapes.
As for the rhythm section, bassist Alberto Ferrer, drummer John Ray, and keyboardist Marianna Tanguy explode with chemistry and lock down the foundation. Each providing a keen sense of when to step into the spotlight.
Prim has long understood the importance of music. The power behind a single note depends on the willingness of the artist to become vulnerable. An R&B vibrato remains in Prim’s arsenal, and has proven to be his bread and butter. That signature vibrato is the lighthouse amidst the storm of a full arrangement. It leads the audience to shore, and brings us the light.
Prim describes the prowess of his music as simply “Making it do what it does one chord at a time.” He’s in it not only for the love of the music, but for the love of the people. His soulful gravity may be what pulls you into his vision, but at some point, it just becomes too compelling to look away.
Hear Ray Prim make it do what it does on the album’s title track below.
To Whom It May Concern will be released on Friday, Sept. 15. There will be an official release party on Sept. 15 at The North Door, located at 501 Brushy St., Austin, Texas 78702. Doors are at 7 p.m. and folk-funk songstress Suzanna Choffel will open the show at 8 p.m., followed by Prim and his band at 9 p.m.
Presale tickets are $25 and include a signed CD. A limited number of VIP packages are also available. Tickets may be purchased here.
For more information on Prim, please see http://www.rayprim.com.
Written by: Sawyer Click
Photo by: Corey Mendez