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Soundcheck: Generations apart, two musicians are bound by the blues



Last modified: Friday, April 03, 2015
Not exactly sure where or when Erik “Fingers” Ray (also known as Mr. Gustafson to his students at Bishop Brady) and Concord High School senior Delanie Pickering met. May have been at an open mic night in Bow or Boscawen. Probably Concord. But when they met, well, something was immediate. The connection was undeniable.

A couple of years back, the quiet kid had been dipping into a bunch of old blues records left around the house by someone – Mom, Dad, Gramps or a wayward uncle, who knows? But those records spoke like gospel to Delanie – the words, how they were pronounced, presented, and that barrel thump of a perfect blues progression put her into a trance.

Meanwhile, Erik Ray was moving cross country from Montana, making his way to New Hampshire, chasing love or something. He’s a math whiz and earns his bucks teaching that maddening standard to local kids. He had a beat on a place to live and a solid gig, but Fingers Ray needed somewhere to bend blues infused notes and do his thing

After all, Ray (Gussy, Fingers, Erik) is no hack when it comes to playing the blues. Last couple years he’s won the Boston and Granite State Blues Society Challenge and was a finalist in Memphis at the 2014 Blues Challenge.

He can bring it, folks. Just ask Delanie: “He plays the blues the way they are meant to be played.”

Ray’s mojo hits you like a bowling pin across the jaw when you meet him. He has a huge strapping smile that matches his size and when he slaps that big country handshake down on you, well, you can’t help but wonder how many fences he’s wired on the range over the years, barehanded.

Easy now.

But those hands can finger the neck of a guitar and make it bark loud enough to be heard in cotton country. His foot stomps on a drum box, his lips work the harmonica that’s always strapped ’round his neck. And his voice is honky-tonk sweet with lyrics well lived. While Fingers was making his way to the Granite State, Delanie found a guitar that was collecting dust around her house and started mimicking the kings: Robert Johnson, Tom Waits, Muddy Waters. She went to gold standard from jump-street. Or should I say “first pluck?” Just one of those things. Must have felt like a near miracle to her.

“Delanie is an extremely gifted young woman,” Ray said. “I’m very impressed by her depth and innate talents.”

Then Delanie got her blood up and hit an open mic night and showed the crowd just what she was born to do: play the blues. Soon after, she and Erik Ray crossed paths. Fingers probably barreled into a show, his ten-gallon hat kicking high on his head with his kick box swaying by his wrist. He likely rushed toward Delanie after her set and knew – I mean really knew – that this kid was something special.

“I’m pretty sure she has an old soul hiding in her,” Ray said. “She is so advanced for such a young person.”

It was through these open mic nights and then onto sharing shows and seeing each other at different blues competitions that they forged not just a fondness for the blues, but a true friendship where distance in age means very little. Only the blues matters. “I feel very lucky to have a friend like Erik who has the same passion for the blues that I do.” Delanie said. “Every time I see him perform I’m blown away.”

So go see them both somewhere, anywhere. You will do as so many have done before: stand mesmerized, slack-jawed and in awe of both Delanie and Fingers Ray.

Promise.



(Rob Azevedo can be reached at onemanmanch@gmail.com and the Soundcheck blog can be found at music.concordmonitor.com.)