march 2012

Marty Raybon: Staying within himself, getting the message across

The Message Resonates

By David McGee

Marty Raybon
Rural Rhythm

One of contemporary roots music most soulful singers, and an impressive songwriter to boot, Marty Raybon brings faith to the forefront on his powerful new solo album, Hand To The Plow. He makes this point abundantly clear on the first track, when he breaks from the gate with an orchestral flourish on “I’ve Seen What He Can Do,” a thoughtful affirmation of faith set against a power ballad backdrop of pounding percussion and surging strings. Seconding that emotion, Raybon cuts loose on the old warhorse, “I’m Working On a Building,” in a foot stomping, guitar- and fiddle-driven arrangement taken at a breakneck pace; Raybon’s intense vocal is hot enough, but things really combust when three guest vocalists--keening tenor Jimmy Fortune, a rumbling Trace Adkins and country-soul veteran T. Graham Brown--pour their own special gasoline on the fire Raybon started.

The official video for Marty Raybon’s ‘I’ve Seen What He Can Do,’ from The Hand To The Plow

Given Raybon’s strengths as a balladeer, it’s hardly news to report that the softer moments on Hand To The Plow have a special quality. “Walking With God At a Guilty Distance,” a Raybon co-write with Gerald Crabb, opens quietly, rises briefly in intensity but returns to its interior quality as Raybon sings emotionally of a man in conflict with his faith. These reflective moments dominate the rest of the album, and this plays to Raybon’s greatest strength, his sure way with a sensitive lyric. Dobro and acoustic guitar set the stage for an urgent Raybon vocal on Neal Thresher’s “You Get Me,” which might be a love song to a significant other, or a testimony to the power of God’s love in his life; with its brisk pace it’s hardly a ballad, but the Raybon-Peter McCann beauty “He’s Still My Little Man (Matty’s Song),” has ballad qualities in its story of a father’s pride in his son growing to honorable manhood; keyed by a church-like piano, “Bright New Morning,” with strings and steel guitar easing into the arrangement, is a riveting testimonial of a true believer looking ahead to a time “when every day will be Heaven, and I’ll never wake up from the dream,” and reaffirming his faith in the process. Despite the big productions on several numbers, Hand To The Plow has an intimate feel about it, thanks to Raybon staying within himself and not getting caught up in the theatrics. The message resonates.

Marty Raybon’s Hand To The Plow is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024