As the duo Gray/Smith, drummer Rob Smith of Rhyton and Pigeons and guitarist-vocalist Keith Connolly a.k.a. L. Gray of No Neck Blues Band tap into New York’s psychic reservoir of folk music and draw out sparse, intimate melodies redolent of mid-century Americana. Their self-titled, self-released debut album, recorded under extraordinary circumstances at Gary’s Electric studios at the beginning of 2021, documents Connolly and Smith’s experiments in unfurling layers of a composition—both their own and those of their heroes, Ronnie Milsap and Sonny Curtis among them—while remaining true to the melancholy emotional tenor of their mutual inspirations. On both electric and acoustic guitar, Connolly alternately lollygags and hopscotches; on drums, Smith plays wistfully and with precision. Gray/Smith’s sound approaches the Grateful Dead by way of English band Free, distilling country classics with a knowing minimalism.
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