There is a sound and feel to tradition that you can’t invent on the spot. One has to learn it. One has to inherit it. Solid Ray Woods has inherited and learned the sounds of the past in order to take the tradition of soul and rhythm into the future of a new American music. One listen to his voice and the steady and solid pace of his drumming, and it’s easy to realize this new artist has the history of rhythm and blues, gospel, and soul on his sleeve, and is able to create a new direction for singer songwriters who sit behind the drum kit rather than the guitar.
Ray Andrew Woods Jr. was born to military parents Ray and Pauline Woods while they were stationed on the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. When Ray was six months old the family was relocated, to the military base, in the small town of Twentynine Palms, California. The music of James Cleveland, Andre Crouch, the Staples Singers, and other gospel groups were always playing in the house.
The family grew, making Ray Jr. the eldest of two sisters and one brother. The local Pentecostal church is where Ray fell in love with the power of song. Singing came first in church choir. When banging pots, pans, and walls became too much, his mom made him a hand drum which he began playing in church. He then moved to the drum kit. His mother, Pauline, who was instrumental in Ray’s musical development, sang and played the Hammond B3 organ in church.
While finishing high school, Ray began his steady presence in the local Hi-Desert music scene and played with as many troubadours as he could. He made a name for himself as a drummer who would show up at a open mic or sit in on a gig with someone he had never met before and make the music sound rehearsed. While sitting in at the Beatnik Cafe in downtown Joshua Tree, he was approached by Victoria Williams and Mark Olson (a founding member of the Jayhawks). They added him to their band The Creekdippers and gave him his first break, with a tour of the U.S. in the fall of 2002. That first tour led to many more around the States and Europe, and recording sessions for Creekdipper records and a subsequent Jayhawk’s tour as well.
Years of songwriter association paid off as Ray began to debut his original compositions along side traditional soul and folk tunes while drumming and singing for local heroes The Thrift Store All Stars at Pappy and Harriet’s during their ongoing stint as the house band there each Sunday. It wasn’t long before he gathered his own band and sound using accomplished local musicians, which enabled him to start playing shows at Pappy and Harriet’s.
Solid Ray Woods officially released his first recordings on December 20, 2008. It is five tracks of originals, written or co-written by Ray, which feature the vocal sound that has endeared him to many a music fan, and will only continue to attract attention as time goes on.