Raymond Byron & the White Freighter - Little Death Shaker
Since Ray Raposa released his first full length album (Cathedral) with his band The Castanets in 2004, he has recalibrated the bands line up innumerable times and has released a further smattering of LPs. With a few years gap from his most recent Castanets album, Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts, Raposa is back under a new moniker, Raymond Byron and The White Freighter with their debut album Little Death Shaker.
Raposas new project isn't as new as you might think; the outfit consists of many of the same musicians he used during his time as The Castanets and the band revolves around Ray's songwriting and rasping whispers just as The 'Nets did. Where The White Freighter and Little Death Shaker do differ though is within the sound that inhabits this 15 song album. Where The Castanets specialised in swamp soaked psych-folk with a country hue; Raymond Byron and The White freighters debut's sound has a starkly blues vibe that rests underneath the folk/country sound Raposa has become renowned for.
Another way this debut takes a tangent from Raposas Castanets material is within its lyrical content; the songs on this debut take a more narrative route than on previous Castanets albums where minimalism and what was left out of the lyrics was more important than what was in them. In Little Death Shaker we see Raposa describing personnel tales of lonely ruin and the search for salvation and showing us a much more personnel album where he recalls to us his own stories. Songs like 'Dont That Lake Just Shine', 'Whippoorwill' and 'Stateline' follow these themes, helping to weave together the gloomy and eerie tapestry of Little Death Shaker and create a sound and aura that Raposa is so adept in making.
In contrast to the dark vibe that oozes from this debut, is a sense of humour that has been lacking within Raposa's previous work. This new dimension can be found on songs like 'Some of My Friends' and 'You’ll Never Surf Again' which flicker dubiously between happy and sad but remain humorous, most obvious being the punch line at the end of 'Some of My Friends'.
Little Death Shaker is a welcome departure from The Castanets, showing the musical diversity and creative spirit dwelling within Raposa, and although it isn't a complete departure from his previous work, it succeeds in showing a more personal, desolated and humorous side to his songwriting.