Sugaray Rayford and songwriter/producer Eric Corne continue to make beautiful music together on Rayford’s In Too Deep, a fun album of soul blues that allows the pair to show how serious rhythm and blues can also feel like a party.
Rayford and Corne previously collaborated on 2019’s Somebody Save Me and, as with that album, Corne wrote all the music and just about all of the lyrics. This second album shows the two artists growing together, becoming more comfortable with each other’s voices, both literal and figuratively. In Too Deep is a singer in his prime, with Rayford’s rich vocals leading sophisticated arrangements through songs that are pure soul hooks. Not a sound is out of place.
The album has lots of high points, but I’m partial to “United We Stand,” which has a Prince-like swagger and a melody similar to the Great Purple One’s “Kiss.” But the resemblance isn’t just musical. It’s also the way Rayford navigates the pumping bass, the waves of horns, the swaths of guitar, and the backing vocals, finding his space within the sonic density, but also commanding our attention. Interestingly, the accompanying lyrics have Rayford singing, “Love is not a sprint / It’s a marathon,” but on the album, he adds, as a quick aside, “That’s what my grandma told me,” right afterward. While Rayford and Corne co-wrote the lyrics, Rayford is taking ownership, not reciting them, but bringing them to life: Rayford’s life.
“Invisible Soldier” has 1970s horns and a 1960s Motown groove. Rayford’s voice is practically a horn itself, the way he lengthens syllables, like a sax holding a note, and then punches them shorter, like a trumpet playing stabs. While Corne built the track (he recorded and mixed the album and even helped arrange the horns), Rayford is able to inject his personality into the track. Rayford didn’t write the song but he possesses it.
The album is more than the horns, though. Rayford also shines on the more restrained tracks, like “Please Take My Hand,” which is hand-clap beat, some cowbell, and backing vocals that buzz like a meditative colony of bees. Here Rayford handles the heavy lifting of the song, providing all of the melody and letting his deep voice serve as the entire band.
You don’t listen to In Too Deep and think, ‘Wow. This sounds like a great example of two artists collaborating really well.’ Rayford’s voice will dazzle listeners, as will the strong, and accessible songs. It’s a fun album that doesn’t require much examination. But it’s also impressive to consider all of the work and cooperation that makes the album sound effortlessly happy.
The Review: 9.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Invisible Soldier
– What a Way to Go
– Please Take My Hand
– No Limit to My Love
– United We Stand
The Big Hit
– United We Stand
Buy the album: Amazon