A lot of good music is produced in this country, and much of it, like that of Kay Kay and the Rays, just slips under the radar without notice. The Abner Burnett Blues Band, led by keyboardist Abner Burnett and bassist/songwriter Bob Trenchard, were looking for a singer back in 1997; enter six-foot-plus Kay Kay Greenwade. With a name change, Kay Kay and The Rays was thus born.
Burnett departed in 2000, after which Trenchard and Greenwade took over the band’s leadership. He and Kay Kay co-wrote 10 of the album’s 15 tracks. While the band was rooted in the blues, Kay Kay’s vocals often took them in R&B, funk, and gospel directions. The band has had a large rotating cast of musicians, the most prominent of which were saxophonist Andy Roman, drummers Richie Puga & Tommy Taylor, and guitarists Steve Lott & Johnny Rawls.
They have released three albums, Kay Lay And The Rays (1999), Texas Justice (2001), and Big Bad Girl (2003). In the time since, Greenwade has been hindered by a stroke, and so it is unlikely that any more studio releases are forthcoming. The Rays now back guitarist/singer Johnny Rawls in the studio and on the road.
The Best Of Kay Kay And The Rays gathers the best 15 tracks from their three albums, providing a fine retrospective as well as a fitting conclusion to their career.
Their lyrics have always had some bite, as illustrated in such songs as “Junk Blues,” “Stop The Killing,” and “Lord Save Me From L.A.,” which address issues of social and political justice. “Lone Star Justice,” “Enron Field,” and “Texas Justice-Billy’s Story,” likewise, confronts the ruling class and power structure.
Some light, danceable, and fun songs round out those lyrically rougher edges, particularly with “No Mama’s Boys,” “Hey Big Boy,” and “Don’t Have To Tell Me,” which sound like something right out of a smokey roadhouse bar.
Indeed bands come and go without garnering much notice at times, but Kay Kay and The Rays have left behind some well-produced music with grit and emotion. Their dynamic rhythms, stellar guitar work, rousing brass section at times, and Kay Kay Greenwade’s booming voice — which could be soulful, sexy, sassy, and playful — combined to make some fine music. Kay Kay and The Rays will never be a household name but their music will always shine brightly.
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