By Roger Sharman
Friday (3rd September) saw the return of Waco, Texas native, and one of my favourite people in the world, Kayla Ray’s latest EP release ‘Songs of Extreme Isolation, Economic Crisis and Other Funny Things’.
The title of the release is something that we can all relate to, and the struggles we’ve all had to go through during the pandemic. It also speaks volumes about the sense of humour this little lady possesses. Indeed, I recall Facebook live performances during the Covid crisis brought to us from underneath her kitchen table. I must admit there were times when I expected her to don a tin foil hat, and believe me she’s one of the few that could pull it off in style.
One thing that’s always struck me about Kayla is the eloquence she brings to her song writing, whether it be a witty ditty, or a song about drunken cheating, she always delivers lyrics that will bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye.
If you sit down and chat to her for any length of time, she’ll have you in stitches, and put you at ease in moments such is her warm effervescence. She’s also akin to a walking country music Encyclopaedia, she’s a true student of her profession, indeed, much of her style whilst remaining original in sound has borrowed much from the classic artists of yester year such as Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and Roger Miller. To me she’s the new Tammy Wynette, that’s the nickname I’ve given to her anyway, and that’s a measure of the esteem I hold her voice in.
‘Tree of Life’ is the opener on the EP. It’s Kayla’s mantra to life if you like, and many would be wise to follow her lead and live their lives by the message that the song sends out.
‘Quarantine Can Bong’ is one of those witty ditties that I mentioned earlier. Born from the period of isolation that we’ve all been through. It’s a short song about the mischief that some of us have got up to during the pandemic, born from of boredom more than anything else. Which reminds me very much of the old saying – the devil makes work for idle hands, one that my mother often used when my sister and I were young.
‘When the Iron Horse Gets Fed’ is a rambling song. To tell the truth, I had no idea what an Iron Horse is so I had to use my friend Google to inform me that it’s a Locomotive the workhorse of the United States in the early 19th Century, carrying supplies across Badlands, mountain ranges, and prairies, as settlers and gold prospectors moved westwards. This track is another example of the fine lyricism of Ray.
The sheer emotion that this voice possesses is the predominant feature in the song ‘Brand New Way’. It’s a song about learning to move on after the loss of a loved one. The slide guitar, perfectly compliments the mood of the track, which captures the feeling of emptiness.
‘White Claw Man’ lightens the mood a touch. Once more I’ve had to visit with my buddy Google to find out what kind of Beverage it is, and then on a visit to my local store I discover that they actually stock it! It sounds pretty revolting to be honest, one of those Alcopops drinks! I won’t ever get “White Claw Wasted” that’s one thing I’m certain of, I think I’d actually be sick before I got drunk off of those, and I think that’s the point of the song.
The mood darkens again with ‘The Losing End’, so the weeping Steel Guitar, accompanies Kayla’s pickin’. The combination of the Guitars and Kayla’s vocals are so powerful, I don’t think there’s anyone that can sing a sad song like Kayla does, these days. In this respect she’s one of a kind.
‘If Freedom is What We’re After‘ is far and away the most upbeat track on the EP, in fact it’s a bit of a rarity for Kayla, which I find to be quite a surprise, I mean for someone who has such a bright and breezy personality, I’d expect more of this type of track, and its positivity. I guess we’re all products of the world we exist in, and the world really hasn’t been that kind to anyone over the last couple of years.
The last track on the EP IS ‘Good Enough for Me’. This is a collaboration with her long-time buddy, Chris D Schlotzhauer (aka Slotzy), a former Steel player in Jason Eady’s band and was released as a single last year. It’s one that she’s very poetically described as “a loner’s lament and a desperate longing to be able to move again”. It was written at a time when Kayla had decided to move to Springfield, Missouri, partially because it was slap bang in the middle of areas that she enjoyed plying her trade, and partially because she felt the need for a change of scenery. It was at this point in Kayla’s life that she learned to enjoy solitude, something that Covid enforced upon many of us. I think the pandemic has also brought an end to that, although I know full well that we all need solitude at certain times in our lives.
One positive by-product of Covid is this wonderful collection of observations from one of the most talented songwriters around today.
‘Songs of Extreme Isolation, Economic Crisis and Other Funny Things’ is out now on all digital platforms and CD.