NPR logo

Ray Bonneville in Studio on Folk Alley

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Ray Bonneville: True-to-Life Troubadour

Ray Bonneville: True-to-Life Troubadour

Ray Bonneville in Studio on Folk Alley

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Just the Videos

'Crow John'

'Goin' by Feel'

'Run Jolee Run'

'I Am the Big Easy'

I was told that Ray Bonneville was a wiseacre and straight-shooter. I was prepared for that, but I couldn't figure out where he was from. I had heard Montreal, but his name tag at the recent Folk Alliance conference read Arkansas, and his favorite place is Texas. As it turns out, he's from all these places and many more.

Bonneville is a true troubadour, and it shows up in his songs. He carries a piece of wood so his cowboy boots can tap out a rhythm while he plays guitar. He was adamant that the foot-tapping be miked to sound as if it were coming out of his guitar. You'll have to listen to see what he means.

As we were being sound-checked, I made a quip about the missing millionaire pilot Steve Fossett. Ironically, Bonneville hadn't heard the story, even though Bonneville himself had been a bush pilot for years. I didn't know of his flying experience until our conversation, and I must have piqued his interest, because he kept asking me for details. Was this the spark for an eventual song? If so, when you hear it, you'll know that you were there for the birth of the idea.

Article continues after sponsorship

Bonneville likes a good story, especially if it's not his own. He writes as if he's allowing you to eavesdrop, so cup your ear and enjoy.

More About Ray Bonneville

Like the stories of his favorite authors Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bonneville writes songs full of true-to-life characters who stumble their way through a rough-and-tumble world of violence, hope, and despair. A one-man band, he backs his weathered voice with a highly percussive guitar style, dramatic harmonica lines, and a foot that keeps a steady beat. He's also heavily inspired by the natural world, and currently splits his time between his native Canada and his newest favorite city, Austin.

Bonneville's raw, tell-it-like-it-is storytelling style has won him critical acclaim. In 1999, he won a Juno award for his third album, Gust of Wind. The next year, his album Rough Luck was also nominated for the award. He's shared the stage with blues heavyweights B.B. King, Muddy Waters, J.J. Cale, and Robert Cray, and has performed on the stages of South by Southwest and Folk Alliance. His new CD is titled Goin' By Feel.

Listen to the previous Favorite Session, or see our full archive.

Related NPR Stories

WATCH: Ray Bonneville performs 'Crow John.'

Web Resources

Purchase Featured Music

Buy Featured Music

Goin' by Feel
Ray Bonneville
Red House

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?