Material: Now 17, New York-born, SoCal- raised Ray Goren has been hailed as a musical prodigy, particularly but not exclusively for his guitar playing prowess, since his early teens. It’s all been taking shape since he first picked up a guitar at the age of eight, and now every jazz, blues and guitar mag is calling him the next Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn––high praise but enormous pressure for somebody who is essentially learning his craft on-the-
job. So let’s get real: Goren displays massive potential with his bluesy pop tunes. He’s learning how to craft a song, but he’s not quite there yet. At best, the songs are sweet and endearing. At worst, they’re twee and hokey. But then, who wants to peak at 17?
Musicianship: Goren performs alone, and he switches between electric guitar, acoustic guitar, a number of keyboards and sample/ looping tools, and a drum machine. His feet are constantly moving across the pedals as he navigates through the various intricacies of his songs, yet he excels at everything. As previously mentioned, he’s a magnificent guitarist, wrenching all the emotion he can from his instrument. The fact that he’s only going to get better is frankly frightening.
Performance: The artist loves a good guitar- God face. He gurned and writhed his features around every note, a joy to behold. Between songs, his banter was fun, if a little awkward, in that “teenager” sort of way. When he introduced one song as being about his ex-girlfriend who turned out to be a prostitute, the statement comes right out of left-field. When he introduced another as being about his hot neighbor who he’s obsessed with, then told the crowd that her husband is in the audience, the awkward-level dialed up to max. However, those quirks were some of the more interesting parts of the show.
Summary: Goren clearly has a lot to learn about songwriting and performing. But with the instrumental expertise that he’s developed over the past decade, he’s built himself a solid foundation for whatever happens from here. He has the looks for commercial success, but he has a decision to make, and soon. Does he want to be a commercially appealing pop star, under the wing of an industry bigwig, or does he want to be a singer-songwriter? He has the potential to do both well.
The Players: Ray Goren, vocals, guitar, keyboards.
Photo by Brett Callwood
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