Saint Maybe: Psychedelic Patti Smith and Bob Dylan Compatriots Hit the Highway
Following stints in New York, Guatemala, and Vermont, Ray returned to Tucson in the late 2000s. "I lived in Tucson in the early '90s and really dug it," he says. "I always thought I might come back."
The record sounds informed by the Southwest, and Tucson in particular, a literal representation of the cohesion of the musical and artistic communities there. "There's so much going on in Tucson," Ray says.
But there's also an apocalyptic element, and when Ray sings, "We're better off dead than alone," in the driving, menacing "Take It Easy (But Take It)," you get the sense that there's something on the horizon, something almost sinister that he's hinting at. "When the sun goes down, it gets kind of cold," he seethes. "We used to be young, but now we're getting old."
"I often think about nostalgia, or what people call the 'good old days,'" Ray says. "It seems to me like right now -- these are the good old days. They're happening right now. So within that sprawl [of the album] there's this breath, the breathing of being able to rest in the comfort of things as they are, that they are alright. Someday we'll look back on these days. Maybe we'll think 'Oh shit, we had water, we had food.' Whatever it is. Whatever it might be."
We had coffee?
"Exactly," Ray laughs.
Though a cursory look at the track list might indicate a short run time (eight songs), the album's 44 minutes have plenty of winding passages. Ray's not afraid to reference the granddaddy of all jam bands describing the band's willingness to take things off-road:
"There's a bookish quality about [the record]. I love bands like The Grateful Dead, that would stretch stuff out endlessly, and I love jazz, [and its emphasis on improvisation]. It's fun to take the landmarks of a song, or a rock song, and say, 'Here, these are our points, we know where all this stuff is, but in between these points, let's go exploring.'"
After all, he adds: "We know where we're going to arrive."
Saint Maybe is scheduled to perform Tuesday, February 12, at Crescent Ballroom.