Donnie Ray (New Album Alert!)
Daddy B. Nice's #32 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"Who's Rockin' You?"
Donnie Ray (New Album Alert!)
Composed by Donnie Ray Aldredge
November 3, 2018:
NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Buy Donnie Ray's new MY SOUTHERN SOUL album at iTunes.
MY SOUTHERN SOUL Track List:
She's Got That Ooh Wee
Grown Folks Spot
Still Called the Blues
You're So Beautiful
On That Gin and Juice
It's Ladies Night
She Got It Like That
You're My Lady
Dog House (Extended Club Version)
She's Got That Ooh Wee (Extended Club Version)
Daddy B. Nice notes:
Donnie Ray Aldredge's second album on CDS Records once again features production by Ricky White, which will be as welcome to fans of Ricky White as it will be deplorable to fans of John Ward, Donnie Ray's former producer at Ecko. Donnie Ray's vocals are hard-hitting and energetic, and Tonya Youngblood provides solid back-up.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Still Called The Blues" on YouTube.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "She's Got That Ooh Wee" on YouTube.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Grown Folks Spot" on YouTube.
Buy Donnie Ray's new MY SOUTHERN SOUL album at Amazon.
Note: Donnie Ray also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's), where he first charted at #71. The "21st Century" after Donnie Ray's name in the headline is to distinguish his artist-guide entries on this page from his artist-guide page on Daddy B. Nice's original chart.
For the latest updates on Donnie Ray, scroll down to the "Tidbits" section. To automatically link to Donnie Ray's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations on the website, go to " Donnie Ray" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You" Live Onstage on YouTube.
December 28, 2012:
Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century PROFILE of Donnie Ray:Donnie Ray's "Who's Rockin' You?" is the kind of song you hear and like at once but fear will grow repetitive, age quickly and become music non grata. Just the opposite process applies. You tend to underestimate the song, but the disappointment--the familiarity-breeds-contempt phase of the song cycle--never arrives. Although you fear the tune will grow as tiresome as a TV commercial, the song just grows on you and continues to grow.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You?" on YouTube.
If I had to say any one thing about Donnie Ray, it's that I've continually underestimated him. Until "Who's Rockin' You," that is. Who's Rockin' You?" takes over from the very first bar. It's like a fifty-mile-an-hour tailwind, and if you're not holding onto something, you're going to be carried along in its charismatic sweep.
Who's Rockin' You" is actually a more creatively successful reworking of "Come On, Let's Dance" from Donnie Ray's preceding album, "It's BYOB" (originally issued on Donnie Ray's Don't Stop My Party album).
Donnie Ray has been nothing if not consistent over the last decade. His first significant recording--his signature tune, if you will, until the appearance of "Who's Rockin' You?"--was "A Letter To My Baby."
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "A Letter To My Baby" on YouTube.
It was based on Gwen McCrae's 1975 hit, "Rocking Chair." Donnie Ray reworked the song musically and lyrically. Here are his words:
Take me in your arms
And rock me baby.
Are we gonna make love?
Said I'm on my way."
Donnie Ray's "A Letter To My Baby" had the same grounded but romantic soul defined by George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" and Gwen McCrae's "Rocking Chair," but there was also an underlying and extraordinarily appealing urgency and expressiveness in Donnie Ray's vocal that recalled Tyrone Davis's rooted yet majestic vocal on his classic, "Where Are You, Lady?" Both Tyrone's and Donnie Ray's songs occupy that mellow, mid-register, mid-tempo region that seems to be at the heart of the best Southern Soul music.
Between these two musical milestones, "A Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You?," Donnie Ray has built a solid career and catalog of better-than-average soul music. Never the most flamboyant or most spectacular performer on the chitlin' circuit scene, Donnie Ray has nevertheless defied the odds through sheer longevity and consistency.
The artist seldom falters. He pays attention to his material and he presents his music in varied guises, hammering away at his brand with perenially fresh energy and perspective. Among the many first-rate singles that please fans are periodic forays into the blues (with a smooth edge) such as "Love Monkey" and "Too Many Mechanics."
Other noteworthy Donnie Ray classics that have stood the test of time are finely-structured songs such as "If I Could Do It All Over" and "This Time The Dog Got Caught By The Cat." My own favorite (after the standards "Who's Rockin' You?" and "A Letter To My Baby") is a song with a rare female background vocal (which sounds like a duet, at least on the chorus), "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home."
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home" on YouTube while you read.
The female vocal (uncredited) is raw and lacking in technique, but the lack of sophistication works in the song's favor, giving it the authenticity of 60's soul classics that employed unpolished, young singers for that hard-to-replicate "street" sound.
To read more about Donnie Ray's early career, go to Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.
To read Daddy B. Nice's Review of Donnie Ray's I'm Goin' Back CD (Ecko, 2012), scroll down to Tidbits section, #4.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Donnie Ray (New Album Alert!)
Donnie Ray Aldredge (aka Donnie Ray) was born in 1959 in Texarkana, Texas. The Aldredges were a musical family, and by the time he was a teenager Donnie Ray was performing in his father's band. He excelled as a singer, a multi-instrumentalist and a composer, and he gradually began performing with headliners like Marvin Sease and Millie Jackson when they came through on tour.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"It's three o'clock
March 8, 2015:
Daddy B. Nice reviews Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD. See Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews.
March 1, 2015: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Perennial top-twenty contemporary southern soul star Donnie Ray is back with a new, energetic CD:
Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD.
Re-Posted from Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews:
March 7, 2015: DONNIE RAY: She's My Honey Bee (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
There's no blockbuster song on the order of "Who's Rockin' You?" Nor is there anything comparable to Donnie Ray's vintage classic, "A Letter To My Baby." But there is much to savor on Donnie Ray's new CD, SHE'S MY HONEY BEE.
Aldredge (Donnie Ray is his first and middle name) is at the least a competent songwriter, and once in awhile a fantastic one, as his credits for "Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You" attest. On this new set he brings four superior songs (Tracks 3-6) to the table ("Hold It And Roll It," "She's My Honey Bee," "I"m Still Waiting On You" and "Stone Cold Party"), surrounding them with nine decent though not outstanding tracks by himself and various Ecko house composers: Henderson Thigpen, Raymond Moore, Gerod Rayburn and John Ward. The four outstanding cuts are all written by Donnie Ray Aldredge.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing"Hold It And Roll It" on YouTube.
All these songs have a distinct, fresh feel to them. "I'm Still Waiting On You" has an exceptional melody, atmosphere and message, while "Stone Cold Party" is an uptempo dance jam in the serviceable mold of T.K. Soul's "Party Like Back In the Day." With John Ward doodling naughtily on a Hammond B3 organ, "Hold It And Roll It" features Donnie Ray doing a plausible and laudable, Steve Perry "Booty Roll"-ish line dance. (In his own smooth Donnie Ray style, naturally.) See Daddy B. Nice's #6-ranked Southern Soul Single for March 2015. And in the quasi-title tune, "She's My Honey Bee," Donnie Ray gives a nod to under-rated fellow performer and singer/songwriter Rue Davis and one of his signature songs, "Honey Poo."
Of the more second-tier or average tunes, at least another four or five are noteworthy. "Can We Start Our Love All Over" and "I Knew It Was You" will please fans of "Smooth Operator" and "A Letter To My Baby" respectively, sharing some of the bloodlines of their predecessors, and the "O.B." references in "I Can't Take Your Wife Back" will tickle O.B. Buchana fans.
Donnie Ray acknowledges the current trend in harder-edged southern soul in "Shake It Baby, which makes it interesting. And Donnie Ray won the Carolina Beach Music Awards recently for "Who's Rocking You?," making the mellow "Carolina Swing" a natural. All--or nearly all--of these and more ("Mr. Deejay Don't Slow The Party Down") are also written by Aldredge.
Nevertheless, if I were grading the album's components on the old-school scale of A to F, I'd give the songwriting--solid as it is--only a "C-plus" while giving Donnie Ray's masterful vocals and the John Ward arrangements and production an "A."
I'm constantly amazed at how full and natural Ward has made the Ecko studio sound with far less resources than Malaco (with all "live" musicians) in its heyday, and Donnie Ray sings so well and effortlessly we take him for granted. The set also gets an "A" for its generous thirteen tracks.
--Daddy B. Nice
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'm Still Waiting On You" on YouTube.
Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD.
See Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.
See Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.
July 1, 2016:
NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at Soul Blues Music.
Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at iTunes.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Pop It Baby" on YouTube.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Outside Love Affair" on YouTube.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Doghouse" on YouTube.
Daddy B. Nice notes: Donnie Ray leaves longtime label Ecko Records for CDS Records for his new CD, TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR. All the songs were written and produced by Ricky White.
July 18, 2016:
DONNIE RAY: Two Way Love Affair (CDS) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.
The arrival of two new Ricky White-produced albums from CDS, Donnie Ray's TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR and Ricky White’s COMBINATION 3: VARIOUS ARTISTS, follows a relative hiatus of a couple of years for the label and a short-lived affiliation with producer Jonathan Burton after the departure in 2011-12 for reasons of health of Carl Marshall.
CDS CEO Dylann DeAnna, who started out with grand intentions of utilizing all live instruments (in the manner of Jackson, Mississippi's Malaco Records in its heyday) soon fell victim to the financial realities. As the years have passed, he's also shown less relish to risk money on marginally-marketable recordings, which--to his credit--he often did in the early years, publishing an unknown Stephanie Pickett, a forgotten Cicero Blake and Stan Mosley, not to mention many artists (Captain Jack Watson, Jody Sticker, Mister Zay, Bobbye Johnson RIP) whose CDS recordings represented their last shots to date.
Meanwhile, Ecko Records, frequently--and often unfairly--criticized for repetitive production under the guidance of CEO John Ward, has soldiered on, maintaining a stable core of veterans with few new additions or exceptions, and pressed a lot more records than CDS over the same time period. The reason all this is relevant is that TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR marks the defection of Donnie Ray Aldredge from Ecko to CDS.
While being one of the most consistent recording acts on the chitlin' circuit (I count eleven CD's for sale on Ecko Records' Donnie Ray page alone) and unfailingly charismatic and professional with his vocals, Donnie Ray has nevertheless caught "lightning in a bottle" only twice: his early career-making hit, "A Letter To My Baby," first published with Stan and Lenny Lewis' Shreveport-based Suzie Q Records around 2002) and 2011's Ecko-published "Who's Rockin' You?"
Both are great records many artists would "die for," but Donnie Ray was undoubtedly due for a change, and TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR, packaged in sumptuous red and white cover art, is the result.
Headlining both Donnie Ray's new set--the first designated single, released a month ago--and kicking off the third in Ricky White's popular COMBINATION series, is "Pop It, Baby (or "Pop That Thang") It's brassy, it's slick, it's pumped-up on musical steroids, and it may be the biggest miscalculation of Donnie Ray's career.
Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Pop It, Baby" on YouTube.
Any vestiges of the "middle ground," the subtly-swinging, rocking-the-cradle sound of Donnie Ray's southern soul oeuvre throughout his Ecko years (including the classics "A Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You?"), are blown away by the crater left by Ricky White's nuclear-bomb, throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production of "Pop That Thing."
Why am I left unfazed by this, when a Bigg Robb "techno" track never fails to get me moving, and simultaneously still sounds like authentic southern soul? There's something empty or missing at the core of "Pop It Baby," in a way that it's not missing from a similarly dance-'till-you're-senseless tune like Lil' Jimmie's "She Was Twerkin'." Lil' Jimmie sounds authentic. You can visualize the woman he's singing about twerking. "Pop It Baby" is music about music, twice removed from reality. You don't experience reality. You don't see the gal.
It almost seems like the CDS crew--and it's a good one, including longtime background singer Jamonte Black, respected Jackson guitarist Stevie J., and even a saxophonist on one glorious track--is trying to "clean up" southern soul for a northern, urban taste. If "Pop It, Baby" had southern soul timing and modesty, it might be compared to Denise LaSalle's "Snap, Crackle And Pop," but the only thing it has in common with the latter is the title, which so aptly describes its arrangement.
Added to the razzle-dazzle is Ricky White's continued use of programmed horns, a technique that sounded outdated on southern soul records already a decade ago. As a producer, the multi-talented White is so close, yet so far, from taking the next step. The faux horns cheapen--even ruin--the arrangement even when it's trending up, and the solution--piano, guitar, accordion, blues harp, violins (even faux-violins)--is so readily available.
Only listen to "Outside Love Affair," which starts out with a real saxophone (Jesse Primer) and continues with the feathery trills of Stevie J.'s real guitar, and adds texture with some interesting pizzicato violin. Instantly, almost with relief, we're transported to true southern soul territory, and even the limitations of the song and its derivative melody can't dampen the joy the arrangement proffers. And the difference between "Outside Love Affair" and "Pop It, Baby" is illustrative of how little effort it would cost Ricky White to take that next step.
The balance of the album swings between the two extremes of "Pop It Baby" and "Outside Love Affair." "Two Way Love Affair," the title tune, is closer to the reassuring soul of "Outside Love Affair." It's not as good because it's riddled with those long, boring, faux-horn fills and the cheap, quick-popping, faux-horn transitions, but halfway through the song, a beautiful (partly because we haven't heard it before), lower-registered (mute-mimicking) horn sound (programmed, but still okay because different), transforms the song for the better.
"It's Friday" is a tough song with an overpowering, in-your-face bass track that should translate to success. Donnie Ray's vocal is a thing of beauty. He stretches out. But neither Jamonte Black's vocal nor Ricky White's arrangement lend any additional originality to the proceedings.
"Dog House" is a quintessential southern soul vehicle that somehow fails to coalesce, due to the ever-present programmed horns. They're everywhere, distracting and intrusive, although once again, about halfway-through the song, a promising horn fillip (because different) pops up and just as quickly disappears.
The sharp, stinging, opening notes of Stevie J's guitar, so under-utilized on the rest of the album, open "Who's Loving You (Remix)". After the murkiness of the horn programming, it's like a bracing bucket of water in the face. Nevertheless, all "Who's Loving You?" proves is that it wouldn't have been a hit if this had been the original.
More typical are "I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Don't Want To Be Lonely," where you can hear a little Stevie J. guitar, but it's meager--too tentative--and buried at the end of each instrumental phrase by the programmed horns you've heard on every Ricky White-produced album of the last five years.
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample/Buy Donnie Ray’s TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at iTunes.
Sample/Buy Donnie Ray’s TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at Soul Blues Music.
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
If you liked Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody," you'll love Donnie Ray's "Who's Rockin' You?"
Honorary "B" Side
"A Letter To My Baby"
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