Hippo Manchester
October 13, 2005

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Ray Chesna, The Perfect Blend

Echo Lake Records

** 1/2

A little rockabilly, a little blues, a little New Orleans jazz, a little Randy Newman-esque pop, a touch big-band ballad — put a different amount of each in 11 separate glasses and you’d have a concoction akin to Ray Chesna’s The Perfect Blend.

Chesna is a New Englander turned Georgia singer-songwriter who recently moved back north to seek his fortune. He set up shop on local stages, particularly at Tupelo Music Hall, and seems to be building a healthy local fan base.

Chesna is a jack of all styles, and it shows on The Perfect Blend. This diversity, while interesting, may make it hard for the album to find a niche. It’s not bluegrass, it’s not blues, it’s not rock — so where do you stock it and how do you market it?

That Chesna is talented, there is little doubt and plenty of evidence on the new album. Several of the tracks are quite catchy and “When Benny Played Memories of You” is a very pretty song that sets you wistful and makes you lose track of whatever else is going on. However, the variety of styles on the disc are kind of jarring. From the sigh-full recollections spawned by “Benny,” the album jarred me awake with the country-rock “All I Did Was Love Her” — and the experience was not altogether pleasant.

The Perfect Blend is kind of random, and it might best be enjoyed at random. Buy it or download it and then put it in the CD player with a bunch of other discs and hit the “shuffle” button.  Then you can enjoy it a little bit at a time.

      Robert Greene