Not only is Rick Ray an impressive guitarist, but he's also got a remarkable amount of CD releases in the last couple of years. His brand new one, Into the Hands of Sinners, sees his trademark style of guitar-led progressive rock continuing in a similar direction, although it seems like Rick might be testing the waters as far as lead vocalists goes. I say that because Ray has brought into the fold Phil Noch, who sings lead vocals on 5 of the CD's 12 tunes, while the rest are handled by Ray himself as well as bassist Gary Wood and drummer John Cek.
Musically, this is one hot band. Imagine a cross between Frank Marino & Mahoghany Rush, Robin Trower, Steve Morse Band, and perhaps a bit of T2, and that is basically the Rick Ray Band. Ray's guitar work is a thing of beauty, as he combines haunting, effects-laden passages, as on "Feel Like I'm Gone", with more hard-rock tones like on the blistering title track. He even shows a gentle side on the tender instrumental "Loriann." What's really cool to hear is the interplay between Ray's guitar and Rick Schultz's various reeds, which adds a jazzy, almost Traffic-like influence to some of these songs.
Still, as much good as there is here on this CD, I still think that Ray needs to search for that one singer who really fits his music the best. After checking out these 12 tunes a few times, it seems that neither Noch nor the other bandmates who fill in on vocals are the answer. Noch has a somewhat nasaly, non-melodic voice, and really adds nothing to these fine songs. I really hope that Rick Ray finds what he is looking for, as he obviously has the guitar chops (there are some killer guitar solos here folks) to go along with his catchy songwriting abilities.