By Eric Alper.
There are some things in music that all the technological advancements can’t recreate. And live recording an entire album is something from the past that Calgary roots artist Ray Lemelin embraced on his new release Dark/Out of Phase.
Lemelin’s new album is a laidback exploration of love and life lost through smooth trailing acoustic guitar backed by accordion, banjo, and mandolin. Dark/Out of Phase is a collection of songs that are as immersive as a lazy Sunday afternoon.
“Playing the whole album as they did way back in history, where four guys set up in a circle, put up a few mics and just let the songs tell their story. Up close and personal Dark/Out of Phase is a work of the heart about love and life lost and starting over,” says Lemelin about the album, which includes Tim Williams on 6 different stringed instruments, Howard Schmenge Chapman on accordion and of course Bob Richardson on bass.
Lead single “It Really Isn’t Just About Me” is a jangly roots throwback that explore a mental shift to understand that the world is not all about yourself. To break the song out of its traditional roots mold, Lemelin adds a unique spoken word element that his son, Ray Hyphen, contributed that connects the listener to the song’s narrator.
Lemelin has been a touring and performing guitarist for a variety of artists such as Wes MacKay, Lowell Fulson, and Pinetop Perkins. Dark/ Out of Phase is Lemelin’s first solo effort away from being a touring guitarist and leading the full-time band the Manitee Kings. Inspiration for the album came from living in British Columbia and playing out some of the thoughts in his head with long-time friend and collaborator Bob Richardson at Slaughterhouse Studios.
Born and Raised in the Eastern townships of Quebec, where the population is almost divided equally between French and English made moving West easy for Ray.
Raised in a family where musicians were common on both sides of the family was a natural move for Ray as he himself affirmed as a child (Jigging for change at gatherings) and in blues Rock local bands at house parties or wherever else he was allowed to perform as a teenager and young adult.
In Calgary, after attending a Willie Dixon concert, he proceeded to get a hair cut, buy a suit, a Stratocaster and tube amp. Everything changed and he started searching and listening to anything Blues in all styles but always digging the Roots. Once the King Eddy opened, he spent every opportunity there to listen and learn at the feet of masters.
Being at the king Eddy all the time led to an opportunity as one week a friend had a P.A. at the club but could not do the sound gig for the artist, Clarence Gatemouth Brown. Ray jumped at the opportunity and in turn was asked to do the two-week gig along with the rest of the Western Canadian gigs. That started a friendship with Gate and a few other gigs as Ray took care of the stage and sound along with being Gate’s valet.
During this time Ray led or was part of the blood of the Alberta blues scene, playing with Jimmy Payne, Tim Williams, Ron Casat, Amos Garrett, Rusty Reed, Back-alley John, Johnny V, harp Dog Brown, all the while leading his own groups in between jobs backing other on the Blues scene.
As time went on Ray would keep getting calls to put together a tight band to back up touring blues artists in his part of the world. Subsequently he has had the opportunity to back up or work with and share the stage with many artists such as: Wes Mackay, Lowell Fulson, Fenton Robinson, Jimmy Payne, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Branch, sugar Blue, Sherman Robertson, Johnny Copeland, Sonny Rhodes, mark Hummel, Johnny Nitro, Carl Weathersby, Michael Coleman, James Coffon, Lurrie Bell, Country Pete, Alabama Mike Big Dave Mclean, and Brent Parkin.
Ray has played Festivals Throughout the Country, North West Territories, Funk Fest, Raven Maddase, snow King Fest. In Alberta he has played at the Calgary Blues Fest, Edmonton Jazz Fest, Edmonton Folk Fest, North Country Fair, South Centre Fair, Central Alberta Music Fest and Stampede Stomp. In Saskatchewan he played at the Saskatoon Jazz Fest, Rimouski Jazz. Halifax Blues Fest, Frederickton Harvest Jazz and Blues Fest, Whatshan Family Fest, Cherryville Art Fest, Ray has written for other Artists and shows such as Cristal Plamondon, Video Stew (CFRN) Project Discovery (Shaw).
He has played in recordings for Johnny V’s “Rooster & Hens” and written and recorded his own work such as “Thangs”, “Here to Stay”, “Killer Floor Sampler” (2 songs) and co-produced with Tim Williams. Hills and Lemelin “Neither Here Nor There”, which was named album of the year from the Acoustic Underground Blues Network.
Ray has now released his next album, Dark/Out of Phase. This album is all acoustic and features Tim Williams throughout the Album. He is also busy leading a full time band the “Matinee Kings”, along with teaching and mentoring which is very important as this is how the craft is learned and passing it on is an easy thing to do as all his idols and mentors were very generous.