Fifteen years have separated West coast blues man Ray Bailey's critically acclaimed and popular debut album Satan's Horn from this live club recording. Apparently pocked with trials and tribulations, guitarist and vocalist Bailey has returned with a more polished approach to modern electric blues, a renewed sense of purpose, and a better idea of who he is as an individualist. The show, recorded at Babe's & Ricky's Inn in Los Angeles, shows he's slowed the pace of his life as reflected in these tunes split between standards and introspective originals that are all played with precision, soul, and great depth. Clearly a fan of Albert King, Bailey adopts that spare guitar style on a patient, very slow, and lengthy take of "Sweet Little Angel," or a shorter, midtempo, and funky version of "Why I Sing the Blues." His upbeat "Caledonia" is the briefest of interpretations at about three minutes and the most energetic track, while deep into the tradition, his composed songs like the 12-bar "Miss Mean," and the freewheeling-to-chunky "Satan's Horn," reinterpreted from the previous studio effort, could someday find their way into being covered by others. With drummer Land Richards, bassist Kevin Brandon, organists Edward Neal, or guest Billy Nunn for four songs, Bailey's band -- with no other guitarist or singer -- has that authentic roadhouse feel, and hardly any contemporary inferences away from the real thing. But there's grief and suffering infused into the sad, slinky "I Think About You Every Day" à la Albert King's classic "Cadillac Assembly Line," or his revisited, slow "Did You?" with the lyric "did you ever fight with your woman, and not know why" suggests, alongside Bailey's choppy short notes, a reflection of the stabbing pain he's experienced recently. The overall less-than-fiery feeling of this disc may presuppose a part of why Bailey has been absent from the recording scene. Thankfully, he's back with some inspiring guitar work (check out the raw edge and stomped-down, newer "December Song") that shows he's made not only improvements and refinements, but is happy to be playing the blues like he feels it. Hopefully, another studio date is in the cards for this underappreciated artist who is only scratching the surface of his immense abilities.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos