The story so far.....


Gothic / Death Country -‘solo’ recordings and appearances have always played a prominent part in the canon of HANK RAY – the man / the mind behind THE RAYMEN / THE HOLY ROLLER TRASH INC - ever since the early days of 1987, when the third RAYMEN album “From The Trashcan To The Ballroom” saw the light of day in the shape of the now sought-after double e.p.!
The first RAY solo shows were arranged around that time also, concentrating mainly on slow-motion Country treatments and ballads such as “Tonight”, done by Iggy Pop on his “Lust For Life” album, thus serving as a kind of artistic counterpoint to the Electro-Trash-Rock Mayhem produced by THE RAYMEN.
Well, how can we describe this multi–colored, distinguished style, this Euro-Americana cosmo-vision that has been developed and perfected by HANK RAY over recent years?


To cut a long story short…we may simply call it a hybrid!


It’s the combination of a dark, luring ‘Country’ And ‘Western’ romanticism ( Bob Nolan with The Sons Of The Pioneers, Tex Ritter, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, …) with some distinct elements of ‘strangeness’ / ‘weirdness’ ( The Velvet Underground, Cpt. Beefheart, John Cale, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, David Bowie ….) injected.


These ‘roots’ have laid the foundation for his unique musical patterns over the past years of ‘balladeering’.
Just to furthermore brighten the picture…take the aforementioned and add some respectful, humble nods to Blues / Gospel legends: Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Howlin’ Wolf, Mahalia Jackson as well as a good deal of Ray’s likings for ‘Opera bigshots’, e.g. Enrico Caruso, Benjamino Gigli, Tito Schipa - just to mention but a few of his favorites - and you’ll get a pretty decent inside-description of the Ray–pool of inspirations.


The first HANK RAY solo studio-recordings were made around the summer of 1990…during the sessions for THE RAYMEN / “BILLION SELLERS” album (no. 4), which was released in spring 1991.
Of course, solo recordings were reportedly made before that particular session - some dating back as far as early 1983 - but most of these recordings were simple home-recorded demos and - like e.g., the acoustic blueprints of songs later to appear on the “GOING DOWN TO DEATH VALLEY” album - never destined for commercial release.


The 1990 sessions produced two haunting Ray originals “Heaven Sent Or Born In Hell” and “Death Letter” ( not the Son House tune!! ) plus an extraordinary treatment of Porter Wagoner’s ‘Ode to the padded cell’ , “The Rubber Room”.
“Heaven Sent…” and “Death Letter” were released as one side of the, long-out-of-print, “DEATH LETTER REQUIEM” 7”- color vinyl e.p. on One Million Dollar Records in 1994.


The year before - 1993 - saw the advent of “MAINSTREAM DEATH COUNTRY”,Ray’s full-length solo debut for One Million Dollar Records - recorded in summer, ’91.
On these recordings, the same musicians who had already showcased their talents on the “BILLION SELLERS” platter the year before, once again displayed their crafts to provide the perfect back bone for RAY’s readings such as “Night Time Devils”, “Blues Turn Red”, “Golden H.”, “Party”, “Overshadowed” and the Country-Glamrock anthem “Everybody’s Into Rock’n’Roll”.


Cult-movie director Wenzel Storch supervised and directed the shooting of a ‘video extraordinaire’ to “Everybody’s Into Rock’n’Roll” in late 1993.
In 1995 some more solo sessions were held at Masterplan Recorders with Mr. Pothead Grujic twisting the knobs and providing instrumental support.
At that session a total of seven pre-dominantly dark, fuzz-drowned Death country weepers were recorded by Ray all by himself with the occasional assistance mentioned above.


Six of them, “Ghost Of Your Love”, “The House I Live In”, “Helldorado”, “Lover’s Lament”, “Lord, The Ground Is Cold As Clay” and “Sleep, Haunted Heart” formed the centerpiece of what was to become the highly-acclaimed “COUNTRICIDE” album, released on One Million Dollar Records in fall, 2000.
One song from the sessions “Home Beneath Devil’s Trail”, has remained in the can since then. Maybe the only lively, up-tempo piece of the lot didn’t fit into the scheme of things. Who knows?!


Finally, the three songs recorded in 1990, “Heaven Sent…”, “Death Letter” and the -thus far- unreleased “The Rubber Room” made it onto “COUNTRICIDE” as well.
These three plus two alternative mixes held back from the “Mainstream Death Country” sessions, “The Day Sweet Valerie Turned Evil” and “Overshadowed” and an early vocal / guitar version of “Behind Brown Eyes”, recorded at the “Music To Lynch Your Lover By “ sessions in late 1996, finally made for what must be called Ray’s most-coherent work …a stunning time-warp considering the fact that the material covers a total time-span of more-or-less six years.


1997 saw RAY’s debut as Dimitri Tiomkin’s /Ennio Morricone’s evil twin, recording two ill-fated instros for a SPAGHETTI-WESTERN compilation called “Duck You Suckers”.
These instros, “Outlaw Kill” and “There’s A Pale Moon Over The Valley Of Darkness” showcase another facet of the man’s many talents. More contributions to compilations released worldwide were recorded during the years 1998 – 2003.


The ultimate top of the heap must be the Hollywood-opera style version of the western classic “River Of No Return” known to most people via Marilyn Monroe’s incomparable movie version displaying thee ultimate height of “Female Frailty Gone Grandezza Galore”.
RAY’s version – paying tribute to The Sons Of The Pioneers’ and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s versions rather than Marilyn’s - highlights the “HOUR OF THE GUN” compilation, released on One Million Dollar Records in 2003.


A four track Christmas e.p. “Blue Notes From Deadroom No. One” scheduled for Christmas 2001 release was recorded in late summer of the same year but for reasons yet unrevealed never saw the light of day.
Among the featured tracks were, “River Of No Return”, a cover of Johnny Cash’s “God Has My Fortune Laid Away” ( one of Ray’s fav Cash tunes), a hauntingly – beautiful rendition of Jimmy Wakely’s “If Santa Claus Could Bring You Back To Me” plus the self-penned Christmas tune “(Christmas Brings Back Memories Of) Mother And Home”.
Though never officially released, ‘unidentified’ promotional copies are rumored to be seen at auctions from time to time…


In July, 2004 Rhythm Bomb Records’ plans to release a HANK RAY CD with material from the “lesser known” / “so-called-unreleased” canon of Hank Williams, Sr. finally took shape.
Answering the call, Hank selected 4 Hank Williams “poems”, the man himself had never recorded and wrote “new” music / arrangements to these Hank lyrics to be released on his third solo album : “BALLADS FROM THE BADLANDS OF HEARTS”.
These “remodeled” versions of “Forever’s A Long, Long Time”, “A Stranger In The Night”, “Somebody’s Lonesome” and “Your Turn To Cry” are the results of this “Collaboration From Beyond The Grave”…
The above-mentioned titles plus another 12 more HankOnHank recordings were done during two sessions at Berlin’s Lightning Recording Services in the summer of 2004.
Each song was done as a straight vocal / guitar performance (many of them first takes ) with stand-up bass, tremolo guitar and organ added later for a “fuller” sound.
12 selections were finally chosen for album release…


Late 2008 saw the release of 4 albums on Indiana’s Devil’s Ruin Recs. The GLAM-GOTH-AMERICANA homage “BARBEQUE OF SOULS” plus its outtake companion “BROKEN ANGELS ‘N’ SATURDAY SATANS” accompanied by the re-release of the classics, “MAINSTREAM DEATH COUNTRY” and “COUNTRICIDE”…