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Ray Goren, Young Blues Guitar Phenom, Talks Technology and Fond Memories of Leon Russell

Goren takes Leon Russell’s Advice — And Their Music — Into the Future

By DONNA BALANCIA

Ray Goren is bringing the blues into the future.

The 16-year-old blues guitar phenom is using technology to deliver his remarkable blues message.

“I will never abandon the blues because it’s in my soul,” said Ray, who will bring his wailing blues guitar sound to Genghis Cohen Feb 18. “The blues is more than a style of music.”

Ray has a talent that few come by naturally. With the support of his family, at his young age he has become something of a blues legend in Southern California and beyond, playing with the best of them. Including the late Leon Russell.

Ray Goren is doing what mentor Leon Russell would want: He's making great music - Photo by Donna Balancia

Ray Goren is doing what mentor Leon Russell would want: He’s making great music – Photo by Donna Balancia

Leon Russell ‘Was Like Family’

Ray’s guitar work is so profound, he caught the ear of the late music legend Leon Russell and became Leon’s protege. Russell died last November at the age of 74.

“Leon became like our own family,” said Ray’s father, David. “Ray and Leon co-wrote and recorded songs and Leon invited Ray to Nashville. I asked him why he took my son under his wing and he said, ‘We have to pass on the traditions.'”

David said Leon and Ray spent a week in Nashville and met every morning in the studio. They would work and write all day. They wrote a few songs together, and they have not been released yet.

Leon started playing music with Ray and they shared emails back and forth. Leon would give his opinion.

Ray has taken his blues guitar work one step further. He’s using looper pedals, electronic keyboards and electronic drums to modernize his craft.

Donna Balancia photo Leon Russell

Leon Russell passed away last November at the age of 74 – Photo © Donna Balancia

 

Ray Goren: Blues with Tech

Ray played a recent show at Genghis Cohen that showed his mastery of looper pedals as well as keyboards and his phenomenal blues guitar work.  He debuted some amazing new songs of love and life that are way beyond the mindset of his young years. He learned some of the tricks of the trade from Leon.

“Leon taught me how to write lyrics,” Ray said. “There’s a lot he taught me about songwriting. He taught me if the song doesn’t come to me, or if I take longer than 10 or 15 minutes, I should move on. Last year around this time we were writing together.”

Ray said he has been struggling without his mentor but he is doing what Leon would want him to do: He’s making great music.

Ray Goren and mentor Leon Russell - Photo Donna Balancia

Ray Goren and mentor Leon Russell – Photo Donna Balancia

‘The Blues Is More than Music’

“Leon was one of the greatest,” Ray said. “He was so humble and he was so giving. He was always working on something for other people. He was a great guy with a great sense of humor.”

But does Ray’s newly discovered love of electronic enhancement give him thoughts to abandon the blues?

“I will never abandon the blues,” he said. “The blues is the roots of rock and and a big part of rythm and blues. The blues is more than a type of music, it’s a feeling, it’s in your soul.”

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