The Rayo Brothers’ third CD, Victim & Villain, released on Louis Michot’s Nouveau Electric Records and recorded at Dockside Studio with engineer Tony Daigle, should do a lot to keep the momentum going and gain new audiences for the Lafayette band. But unlike most folk-oriented acts, in which the songwriter is the vocalist, Jesse Reaux is the group’s primary songwriter while brother Daniel serves as the lead vocalist, interpreting all but two of Jesse’s songs. Given Daniel’s captivating performance, the siblings must be über-tight for one to successfully convey the intended emotions of the other’s confessional-like material.
While sonically the songs fall between impassioned folk-rock and modern alt-country, with majestic, sweeping arrangements (think Whiskeytown meets the Avett Brothers), thematically they often deal with protagonists admitting their shortcomings in irreconcilable situations and moving forward with maturity. It’s not necessarily morose, but honest and insightful, knowing problems can be dealt with, even if it means closing the door.
The studio production is superb—lyrics are clear and unencumbered. Meanwhile, the instrumental musicianship showcasing big guitars, dancing steel and soft, tinkling banjo is all done with good dynamics, allowing each song to breathe naturally. Two songs hint at a harbinger of things to come beyond the folk/alt-country baseline. “Goodbye Jane” marches with a ’60s pop feel led by trumpets, trombone and flugelhorn, while “Victim & Villain” swells with a micro-chamber orchestra of violin and viola. This evolution will surely continue.