FINDING RAY RIDDLE
Some years ago, my wife Lorrie and I watched a wonderful documentary on PBS by filmmaker David Sutherland entitled The Farmer’s Wife. It followed the struggles of a young Nebraska couple fighting to hang onto both the family farm and their marriage. Lorrie found it on DVD and gave it to me for Christmas in 2010 along with another Sutherland film we had not heard of called Country Boys. This one followed two teenaged boys struggling to find meaning in their lives in a poor, tiny town in eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian hills. We greatly enjoyed this film as well and were quite taken with the soundtrack which was performed by the father of the girlfriend of one of the boys. He made mention of going to Nashville years earlier but had no luck getting recording people to listen to his songs and returned home. In the film, his health had begun to deteriorate and he spent much of his time in his recliner. His name is Ray Riddle.
There’s not much to be found about him on the internet although we did come across the following short bio at CDUniverse.com as well as a single CD entitled From the Heart.
"I love music. I love playing it, I love singing it. And every song I write is straight from the heart." These words are like a mantra for Ray Riddle, who has written more songs than he can count. A childhood spent on a rural Ohio dairy farm is the inspiration for many of the tunes, with songs like 'Take me Back' and the signature 'Country Boys' conjuring images of warm summer nights after a long day working the fields. As a boy he toyed with the guitar, buying his first for ten dollars. But without other musicians to learn from, he could only progress so far. As a teenager, he left the fields of Ohio for the coal mines of Kentucky and befriended local bluegrass players who helped Ray hone his skills.
We purchased the album at amazon.com and fell absolutely in love with it. Mr. Riddle can flat out write songs, play, and sing. Gosh—can he sing. Strangely, for all the pleasure it brings me, listening to the album reminds me that life sometimes isn’t fair. If it were, Ray would have become a household name and the star he deserves to be. But he didn’t. And that saddens me.
Many of his songs are very moving. Mama Singing With the Angels gets me every time. As does Until This Highway Ends. But there are also fun songs and love songs among the album’s fourteen tunes. If you are a fan of real country music, do yourself a favor and get From the Heart. I think you’ll be glad you discovered Ray Riddle. And I’ll take pleasure in knowing I had a part in it.