Singer/songwriter Georgia Cortez Rayner is a native New Yorker who has lived in Scotts Head, Australia since 2004. Having worked as a waitress, a short order cook, a lawyer and a town planner, she decided to “take the plunge into the world of full-time music making at the young age of 52.” Her debut album is titled The Past Is A Passenger and is available for download and on CD, which includes an original art and lyrics booklet.
Rayner describes her music as “folk (with a touch of country), blues with a bit of rock, a bit of hip hop, social commentary/protest and (my) own style of quirky moody observational existential angst.” Thematically this album contains “songs about life, love, loss, family and environmental angst and survival, inspired by the past, the present and the future.” Rayner recorded the basic tracks for three of these songs at home on Bandlab, with the rest of the album produced by Stewart Peters at Soundshed Music. There are 12 great songs here so I’ll discuss my favorites. The album title is interesting, as Ranyer’s past is certainly a passenger on many of these songs.
“Don’t Poke The Bear” establishes an intimate, roomy acoustic sound. There’s great percussion, a jaunty beat and rap-like lyrics. Rayner may have been born in New York but her voice has been fully Aussie-fied. It’s a fun tune, bordering on novelty, certainly different from what’s to come. Somehow the instrumentation really does evoke a bear, probably with a big jar of honey perched on his belly. “So Much Ugly” is a story-song with a laid-back blues structure that evokes Maria Muldaur or the ladies from the Hot Licks band; come to think of it, this tune would not be out of place on a Dan Hicks album. “You think you know the people you know, you know?”
“You’re Still Our Superman” is a gently intimate “tribute for lost loved ones,” featuring acoustic guitar and hand drums. I love the ideas behind the song. “Even though you’re not here, we still see you / And even though you’re not here, you’re still our Superman / but it’s the rainbows you send, and the sunsets and clouds / that really let us know that you’re still close by.”
Rayner says “Flame” is a rock protest song, which feels more fully-produced with lots of vocal overdubs. It’s got a faster, jittery energy with a dramatic James Bond-style break in the middle. Sounds like it might be about the plight of American Indians, but maybe for Rayner it’s the Aboriginal people? Worth considering. “We Are Here” is sweetly folky, conjuring up Joan Baez or especially Dar Williams. Great ’60s style flute moment. “Make Believe” features resonant folky guitar with simple but heartfelt vocals. “And Just like make believe, and little girl dreams, it may come true… really do come true…. You’re real true to me.”
“Finding Our Way” has a country vibe with thumpy, tubby percussion along with achingly beautiful vocals, melodies and arrangement. Mandolin and guitars carry most of the instrumental weight. “Pineapple Ridge” is another song with a folk-country vibe, with American steel acoustics and a spoken word intro. At times it feels like an acoustic version of Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing.”
“Unplanned Destination” ends the album on a simple acoustic note, slowly adding mandolin and percussion while keeping a respectful distance from the vocals. “I want to go home / I need to see home… but I can’t find my way.” It’s a sadly sweet conclusion that works great as the album capstone.
There’s so much to love within these tracks that I can’t believe it took this long for Rayner to pay heed to her musical muse, but here’s hoping she continues well into the future!
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