By Kerry DooleThis Toronto, ON-based troubadour has a parallel career as half of the Undesirables, an in-demand act on the roots circuit. His second solo album, There Will Always Be A Small Time, has a more direct country/folk approach, and it's an impressive work. Raymond has a robust and serviceable voice (John Prine comparisons often come his way) but his true strength is as a songwriter. Within Canadian roots music circles word of that is quickly spreading, as other artists have begun covering his tunes. They'll find plenty to work with here, with "Better Him Than Me" and the poetic "Blue Mermaid Dress" possessing commercial potential. Assisting Raymond's cause is his top-calibre band the Sundowners, comprised of David Baxter, Treasa Levasseur and Brian Kobayakawa (Creaking Tree Quartet), while Undesirables accomplice Sean Cotton adds backing vocals, fluent guitar and co-produces. There's refreshing variety here, from the Cajun feel of "Micheline" to the autobiographical barroom odes "Paid To Party" and the title track to the tender sentiments of "Winter Is The Warmest Time Of Year." There's nothing small time about this cat's talent.
Your songs are being performed by other artists but you also enjoy covering the songs of your peers. That is how my heroes operated, the outlaws that came out of Nashville and those guys from Texas, like Billy Joe Shaver and Willie Nelson. The song was king. If the song was good, everybody sang it. I believe what Willie said: "Good art is good art." It's even better if you can find it on your own sidewalk. There are writers out there like Ridley Bent, Dustin Bentall, the Swiftys, Schuyler Jansen, Andrew Neville, Scott Nolan, John Borra. Some may even become famous but most will be best-kept secrets. I'll probably end up maintaining my status as a best-kept secret but along the way I'll be singing and recording songs by people like them. I want to make a whole album comprised of songs by my peers from coast to coast.
Can you describe your concept of the small time? The small time is us doing it ourselves. It comes down to these alliances between artists and the community itself taking care of its own. Look at the Undesirables. We're touring Australia because of our alliance with David Ross MacDonald of the Waifs, not because of an agent booking us or a record company. I don't even know what the music business is. It just doesn't exist the way it used to. I don't know if I'll ever have any truck with a record label. The thing to celebrate with the small time is that the middleman is removed from the situation. It's about the relationship between the artist and their audience. That's pure, and that's what we're all in it for. (Independent)