Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael Tranquilino "The Flat Hat Sessions"
Flat Hat Productions

A few weeks ago I was attending a live broadcast of Mighty Mouth Blues in Everett, WA, when co-host Dan "Sweet Danny Ray" O'Bryant came up to me and said he had a CD for me to review. I'm thinking, "Cool! People are approaching me!" And so, he hands me a six-song disc that he recorded with local blues guitar hero Rafael Tranquilino -- which sold me right from the start. (I had seen Rafael sit in with The Randy Oxford Band a few months ago, and my jaw dropped at how good this guy is.) These two were fresh back from the 2014 International Blues Challenge and I was about to listen to what sent them there -- and I knew it was going to be good!

"The Flat Hat Sessions"
from Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael Tranquilino starts off with a strut that sets the whole disc in motion: Sweet Danny Ray's gruff vocal in "I Believe I Have The Blues," alone at first but then joined by Rafael's sweetly distorted guitar and Dan's own blues harmonica... The song is instantly one that I began to sing along with, on the chorus after a couple rounds and then the verses after a couple listens... It's just a fun tune, even though the lyrics should be those of a sad song. I guess part of the blues is being able to look at a situation and still be able to keep your head up.

"You're So Fine" is one of those numbers that doesn't really need much of an intro -- the title says it all! Quite simply, a song about ...admiring... some fine lady as she passes by and lingers in your mind long after. Again, the strut continues, and the feel of this song is just one of pure enjoyment.

After a couple struts up and down the groovin' blues avenue, we find ourselves at "The Promised Land" -- one that is probably my favorite, but also quite pointed & sobering in its reality: "Sorry, baby... This ain't the paradise we planned... Sorry, baby... Looks like they moved the Promised Land."
I think we can all relate to this... the not being able to provide all the luxuries in life, or even a better life, for your loved ones and all we can say is, "Sorry..." Deeply moving in its somber tone, it just resonates within.

Now...I don't know if my car's stereo system translates Spanish on the disc display, or if perhaps the English translation of the title for the next song was already programmed in it, but "Oye Cantinero" comes up as "Hey Bartender" on mine! (My Spanish is limited to "Yo quiero Taco Bell"...so at least the car was able to do that much!) I'm not really sure what Rafael is singing in his solo-vocal performance on this disc, aside from what I think may be, "Hey bartender, please pour me a shot" -- but with the way he sings it over his crazy guitar work, it's a pleasure -- and I find myself singing parts of the song as I pick them up. Not sure what I'm saying, but... Cheers!

I was talking with Rick Bowen
from the Washington Blues Society the other day, and he commented about how Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael use comedy, or a comedic tone in their performance, and that's what helps win people over. In the next track, "Before You Go," I can hear those tones in the lyric and vocal style. It's one of those types of relationships where you know she's going to leave, you've seen the signs and "been down [that] road before" -- but you'd like "one more kiss" before she leaves.

The six-song EP closes with "That's The Blues," a song which brings back the strut that started off the disc, while Dan's vocal churns out tales of whoa, with the tag line: "You'll know if you've got 'em 'cause all you'll do is lose, that's the blues.
" It seems a fitting song to end with, coming full-circle to where it started.

"Blues" seems to be a general term in the genre -- perhaps it's more about the feel & lyrics? But yes, this disc is definitely blues in an old-school sort of way, but dang it, they let the listener have fun while singing along! How can one go through hardships and struggles and still enjoy life? Baby, that's the blues.


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    TSSutherland is a lover of music that thumps, bumps, rocks & wails! An avid believer in supporting local arts, this page will feature reviews of NW Blues, Rock & Funk.


    January 2014