Written by Samuel Barker
Feb 16, 2013 at 08:00 PM
ImageA couple of years ago, I stepped outside of a gig we were playing down in Galveston to watch who was on-stage next door at the Old Quarter Acoustic Café. No better way to spend a break than watching someone through the window. The man performing that night was Ray Bonneville. I took in a few tunes and headed back in for the second set with the intention of checking out Mr. Bonneville in the future.

That task took a bit to check off the list, but finally, at Almost Austin, I caught up with Bonneville. This time, he was in town with a drummer, Geoff Arcenault. The friendly confines of Mr. Kenny Pipes’ living room always provides the perfect setting for performers like Bonneville.

With a sound I could only describe as bluesy-swing, Bonneville channeled excellent tones from his pair of amps and multiple electric guitars. Not content solely with Arcenault on drums, Bonneville miked up a couple of stomp boards to add to the sound. For a stage holding but two men, the room was filled with beats, riffs and stories that carried the audience through the sets.

Highlights of the first set included Crow John, Cold Rain on a Hot Day and a cover of Mike Jordan’s Mississippi. Those songs ran the gamut between bluesy stomp, finger-picked folk mastery and straight-up, feel-good rock. Arcenault and Bonneville locked in on the beats, Bonneville’s ability to alternate between tunings, finger-picking, slide and harmonica playing provided the backdrop for the stories he told.

The second set was a treat for those who stayed through the break. The words, “So what do you want to hear?” always makes me smile at a show. It is the quickest way for a musician with a 20 year catalog of songs to connect to their audience. The way faces light up when they get to hear “their” song brings the night to life.

Requests flowed in for songs like I’m the Big Easy, What Katie Did and Cemetery Road, which featured a great introductory story about the origin of the song. Bonneville and Arcenault also broke out some new songs like Where Has My Easy Gone and Mile Marker 41. The new songs showed there was no lack of inspiration for Bonneville after all these years.

I walked into this show with only a couple of songs through a window to go by, which says I did not really know what I was walking into. I was given a treat on this night of watching someone who not only wrote good songs, but had the musical chops to great entire moods and landscapes before even uttering a word. That is something special.