Sugaray Rayford Live at London Blues Week *****

Texan-born L.A. Caron “Sugaray” Rayford blew London’s 100 Club away as part of the annual London Blues Week.

Opening was renowned British singer Jo Harman, backed by keyboards and guitar, who went down a treat with the audience. The highlight of her set was a beautiful version of her brand new single Cloudy, the Average White Band super ballad, which is released today (18th January).

This is not a concert. This is a p-a-r-t-y” exclaimed Rayford. This was an exhilarating set of driving soul-tinged blues. Rayford, backed by a hi octane six-piece band (Alan Markel on bass, Lavell Jones on drums, Alastair Greene on guitar, Aaron Liddard on sax, Giles Straw on trumpet and Drave “Munkihaid” Shining on keys) hit the venue with the vocal power to match his 6’5” solid frame.

With an upbeat vocal style somewhere between Solomon Burke and James Brown, Rayford thrilled the audience for two hours, playing a mixture of originals and covers. Giving band members the chance to shine with extended solos is sometimes a recipe for slowing the mood, but not with Rayford as when you have a keyboardist who played with Al Green and a drummer who played for Little Milton it’s right to give them some spotlight.

Kicking off with Who Is He And What Is He To You? and Albert King’s Born Under A Bad Sign it’s clear to see why Rayford has such a reputation as a performer. He’s got charisma, humour and energy to burn, swaying and prowling around the stage, extracting every ounce of blue soul from his band and cajoling the audience to dance. At one point Rayford enthralled by singing unamplified, his booming voice filling the venue.

A highlight was the awesome Blind Alley, the title track of his 2010 debut album, a song about making your own rules like you make your own way, which exemplifies Rayford’s exuberance and infectious positivity.

Other standout tracks included Take Me Back, a storming version of the Little Milton classic Grits Ain’t Groceries, the stunning original Don’t Regret A Mile and a version as funky as James Brown of Cold Sweat.

Finishing with another Little Milton track If You Talk In Your Sleep Rayford was indeed true to his word – there was quite a party at the 100 Club.

Words and Live photos by Chaz Brooks

Twitter: @SugarayRayford
Facebook @TheSugaray Rayford

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