Ray’s steel guitar will resonate here


Who: Jeff Ray.

When: 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. June 22.

Where: Dunn Bros. Coffee, 120 Elton Hills Drive N.W. in Rochester

Cost: Free.



Listen to "Higher Hilltops" and "Low Wage Mood" in the Entertainment section of

By Christina Killion Valdez

Jeff Ray, his steel resonator guitar and a foot-stomping board is all you’ll hear when the St. Paul musician plays live and on his latest CD, "Last Great Winter." And that’s all you’ll need.

Ray is part of a ring of Minnesota musicians, like Pat Donohue, Charlie Parr, the Brass Kings, Cam Waters and Trampled by Turtles, creating a music scene that blends roots music, bluegrass, blues and folk.

Yet Ray, 27, didn’t come into the style until after meeting a musician who’s played foot-stomping, laid-back blues for decades.

In 2005, Ray played an opening slot for Chris Smither, a blues folk musician out of Boston who inspired Ray’s new sound.


"We hung out back stage and shared songs," Ray said. "He’s been playing music since he was in his 20s. When he was about my age, he had an opening slot for Bob Dylan in Florida at the height of Dylan’s popularity. The night before, he was canceled. Bob Dylan did not want an opener and hasn’t since."

While Smither felt like he missed out, he’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity in his 60s, Ray said. Ray, too, is building his reputation.

Ray plays throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, including shows every couple months in Rochester.

His latest tour introduces audiences to his new CD, which blends his experience with Smither with his love of Indian classical music and George Harrison’s style, all played on a national steel guitar with a bottleneck slide.

"This one is a completely solo album with no over dubs — the way I sound live," Ray said.

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