Kayla Ray: Yesterday and Me
Kayla Ray is an artist who is alive with contradictions, in the best way possible. Modern and fresh, but familiar and vintage-feeling. Bold but sweet. Capable of reeling you in with a soft, melodic twang, but just as confident with a hard rocking, wildly vibrating strength.
My first listen to Kayla’s newest album, Yesterday and Me, instantly made me think of Jason Eady. So much so, I was already going to suggest you check him out if you love this album as much as I do. So it was no surprise when I read that, having become Eady’s tour manager in 2012, he produced her first album, Love and Liquor, in 2014, and had a hand in this album as well. Shortly after her album release in 2014, she started touring on her own, and since, she’s graced stages with artists you know and love, from Jamie Lin Wilson, to Whiskey Myers, to the Turnpike Troubadours.
But where does the old-soul-feel to her sound come from? Kayla grew up in the heart of Texas, in the Waco area. Here she performed as a teenager with “The Gimbles”, led by fiddle player Johnny Gimble, one of the most important fiddle players of the era, who pioneered his own “Texas fiddling style”. You can hear that influence in her music, but much like Gimble created his own style, Kayla has taken that Texas sound and made it her own, too.
Fast forward to May 2018, and the release of what is easily one of the best albums, if not the best album, that flew under your radar (and mine) last year. Jason Eady is in again, as Co-Producer, along with Pat Manske, who has worked with notables such as Lloyd Maines and Ray Wylie Hubbard. A whole host of studio musicians and vocalists collaborated on Yesterday and Me. Ones you’ve heard before, like Cody Braun, Walt Wilkins and Dick Gimble; and ones you’re sure to know more of in the future, like Joshua Barnard and Colton Hawkins.
Kayla says she “wrote all of those songs over the course of the year or two following my 2014 release. This album is very reflective of the stages of my life at the time and any trials or tribulations of that era bore great lessons worth sharing in a very transparent fashion.’’ Songs like “Rockport”, “Magnolias in Springtime,” and “1963” are all just that. They hold nothing back, bearing it all, as it’s all part of the story and all worth hearing.
“Rockport” opens the album with a song written by friend John Dews, that “pulled me in and blew me away,” she told Lonesome Highway’s Declan Culliton. It’s a story that starts out somewhat hopeful in the face of heartache, of leaving town and leaving the past behind; and ends in ‘comfort in the needle, and Daddy’s snub-nose 45’. The story woven by the quiet, longingly-moving strings parallels the longing for freedom Kayla sings of in the song. Like life often is, Rockport is beautiful and sad simultaneously.
Anytime someone mentions “Fire on the Mountain”, I tend to pay attention. I found a love for the Grateful Dead in my twenties, and the love affair continues today, almost 20 years later. Those words caught my attention, but Cody Braun’s sad, echoing fiddle and the sweet profession of love were enough to keep it there. “Magnolias in Springtime” is another transparent glimpse at relationships, full of ups and downs and moments of taking the other for granted. The melody ebbs and flows, mirroring the nature of relationships themselves. Sounds and tones are layered and textured throughout the song, intricate and easy all at once. It’s gorgeously crafted and finds a way to get you to feel the story, as opposed to just telling it to you outright.
“1963” may be my favorite story from the album. Written about her grandfather and grandmother, Myrna Rayborn, who passed away just three days before her first album was released, and whose 1954 charcoal sketch served as the base for the album art, making the cover art a combination of old and new, just like the album itself. Reminiscent of the childhood of so many, myself included, who grew up in small towns as she describes, snapping peas on the porch with grandma, and singing all the old hymns like “In the Sweet By and By,” at church on Sunday mornings. The fiddle throughout is as bittersweet as the story of hard work, young love growing old, and growing up without things the other kids had.
Kayla Ray is real and raw. The stories she tells in her songs are vivid and relatable. Her voice and her guitar, combined with the absolute stellar cast she chooses to collaborate with, create something unique and different, and like your old favorite at the same time; something that so many are trying so hard to do without success. She does it authentically and with grace and ease. It’s no wonder so many adore her and love to work with her.
Executive Producers: John and Amanda Dvorak
Producers: Jason Eady and Pat Manske
Engineered and Mastered by: Pat Manske
Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Kayla Ray
Electric Guitar and Gut String: Joshua Barnard
Steel Guitar and Dobro: Geoff Queen
Piano: Bukka Allen
Fiddle and Viola: Cody Braun
Upright Bass: Dick Gimble
Electric Bass: Jason ‘Clyde’ Carter
Drums and Percussion: Ray Rodriguez
Harmony Vocals: Walt Wilkins and Lauren January
Guest Vocals: Red River Valley’s Run Dry: Tifni Simons
Once a Week Cheaters: Colton Hawkins
Family Band Vocals: Paul Miller, Lauren January, Joshua Barnard & John Dews
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