Collin Raye, whose given name was Floyd Elliot Wray had a string of country music hits in the 1990s from his breakout number one hit Love Me to fun-loving songs like That’s My Story to ACM award-winning videos like Not That Different. From 1991 through to today Raye has scored
24 top ten records and 15 more number one hits. He has been nominated for the Male Vocalist of the Year ten times (five ACM and five CMA).
But the life of a country music star isn’t always what fans want to believe our favourite artists live. He was forced to deal with the loss of loved ones, tragedy and times that tested his choice of a career in music and even his faith.
In ‘A Voice Undefeated’, Raye’s newly released book, he invites readers to walk along with him on this musical, personal and professional journey like you are part of his family.
The 44th Governor of the State of Arkansas (the US state where Collin was born and has a festival named after him), Mike Huckabee (a close friend of Collin’s), wrote the introduction to the book as only someone who knows the artist could. Then in the first chapter Raye opens up about his most recent personal loss that shook him and his family to its core (I don’t want to be a spoiler and tell you too much in case you read the book yourself).
After the jarring start the chapters flow in a more consistent timeline that takes you through his childhood and being raised in home his mother held things together as his father was seldom around. It is easy to see where the musical line led from his mother Lois Wray, as she was an opening act for such top performers as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. Raye’s early performances began with the Wray Brothers Band, where he used the stage name Bubba Wray while making music with his brother Scott. But even has they pursued fame and gained a regional following things fell apart in the mid-1980s as their singles didn’t perform well. Collin even confides to readers that he originally wanted to be a rock star growing up (his first ‘live’ concert was the rock band Foghat), but his unique vocal talents and song crafting steered him towards country music.
The chapters of the book are like a rising and falling ocean; they take you to the high points of his glory days with hit songs and packed arenas to the low points in his personal life as loved ones struggled to survive. The book has a religious thread throughout it and Raye is not ashamed to discuss it in person as he was raised in a Southern Baptist family and is now a practising Catholic. From meeting and interviewing him in person I can
honestly tell you this is not for show or public consumption – this is the true face of Collin Raye. Besides his faith you can also trace the lines of music and how that true inner love of music and playing and performing is still with him today and he spoke of new tours and musical projects with the enthusiasm of a child!
Back in April of this year Raye addressed in an interview what he considered the ‘dumbing down’ of country music as it has got away from well-crafted lyrics and songs and instead embraced a ‘Let’s party in the truck, gonna drink some cold beer’ mentality. Collin compares good traditional country music to poetry and through his book you get to see the stories from some of his own songs played out in his life. I enjoyed reading the book and felt I had a better understanding of the man performing the songs when I recently saw him perform the tracks from his latest album STILL ON THE LINE, a tribute to one of his mentors, Glen Campbell.
Besides being a well-crafted and written book you’ll also find a DVD on the back sleeve that contains an interview and some live performances.
If you are a fan of Collin Raye’s or the great country hits from the 1990s, I believe you will hear Raye’s voice throughout this book. Eric Dahl