Raiford Starke,
Speak Me
(Seminole, 1999)

Raiford Starke is new name to me even if as his bio says he was a tourist attraction as a child, with a birthmark in the image of the Virgin Mary. Today, his excellent voice and playing can make him a major attraction again.

"Speak Me," the title track, has some excellent backing and a song with beautiful and spiritual lyrics that offer solace and inspiration. Raiford's voice is strong and deep and eminently suited to the spirit of the song that he co-wrote.

The fascinating title "Girl from Immokalee" attracted my attention. It is a lovely story song of a guy out to find love with a girl from another land. Again the backing married sweetly with sentiments of the song. Even the sound effects blend effortlessly -- something that is rare. This is a hit awaiting its chance. "Gentle Breeze" is a seductive, slow love song.

Starke shows his versatility when we come to "No Troub Doc." This could be a track from a singer from the West Indies. It is pure calypso, given that extra edge by a western delivery. "Stockbroker Took My Girl" is an upbeat track with a theme familiar to any country music listener. The title tells it all.

One of my favourite tracks on this CD is "Tall Dark Stranger." This is old-time cowboy music at its best. It could be Johnny Cash or Kenny Rogers at their peak. The beat, the voice, the lyrics and the story fit together so seamlessly it is a joy to hear.

Raiford Starke is another of those excellent singers out there producing great music who needs a wider audience and that all-important break. Buy this album, listen and rave about it to all your friends, and give him a well-deserved chance.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 16 March 2002