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Meet Lewis Ray Cammarata

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lewis Ray Cammarata.

For the past 5 years, singer-songwriter-guitarist Lewis Ray Cammarata has been playing solo acoustic shows all over Arizona. Performing a mixture of original songs—some taken from his two Funzalo Records albums, Lemme Outa Here and Carry Your Own Water – and adaptations of other select material, he’s developed a touring circuit of more than a dozen venues, including several weekly residencies. He also hosts a pair of weekly open-mike nights.

Cammarata currently performs at 100 to 500-seat venues—everything from restaurants, pubs, and college bars to nightclubs, showcases, and festivals— “trying to create a niche by appealing to people who get what I’m trying to do.”

Like many people, Cammarata began playing guitar after he saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s TV show. Two years later, the Baltimore native joined the Oxfords, a local soul band whose biggest claim to fame was opening for Archie Bell & the Drells at a Ft. Mead army base.

Cammarata made his recording debut at age 17 with Nicky C. & the Chateaux, who cut a single (“Try Some Soul” b/w “Good Times”)—engineered by future audio legend George Massenburg—for the local Bay Sound Records label. During his time with this outfit, he learned to read and write charts for their four-piece horn section.

In 1970, Cammarata formed his own band, Crystal, which recorded another single for Bay Sound (a cover of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” b/w the original “Funky Finger”). The band spent a year on the road, opening for the Edgar Winter Group, the Grass Roots, the Association, and the Guess Who, among others.

When Crystal broke up, Cammarata spent two years with Jeremiah, a cover band that played everywhere east of the Mississippi River.

Searching for greater creative opportunity, Cammarata moved to Los Angeles and joined the Zippers, a turbocharged Anglo-influenced pop group, who recorded a 1978 single for local indie Back Door Man Records (the original “You’re So Strange” b/w a cover of “He’s a Rebel”) and a 1981 six-song EP of all-original material that was produced by former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek for the Rhino Records label.

For nearly six years, the Zippers were the toast of the West Coast, opening for Patti Smith, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, John Cale, and the Buzzcocks at infamous LA venues – The Whisky, The Starwood, The Troubador, The Paramount Theater, The Mabuhay in San Francisco, and numerous concert venues around the country – before imploding in 1982.

Cammarata then eased into a career as a studio musician, adding guitar, bass, pedal steel, and background vocals as well as doing arrangements for anyone who could pay for his services. Along the way, he worked with saxophonist Cornelius Bumphus, pianist Mike Garson, bassist Glenn Cornick, vocalist Bonnie Bramlett, guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, and violinist Richard Greene.

Eventually, the mercenary nature of the work got to him and Cammarata left L.A. to raise his son in a more child-friendly environment. He sold all his equipment and didn’t play a note for 10 years.

In 2003, Cammarata moved to Phoenix, picked up a 1947 Supro lap steel, and began writing songs and recording in his home studio. Seven years later, he started performing live again, playing at blues jams and with various groups of local musicians, which lead to his decision to concentrate on his songwriting and solo acoustic efforts. In 2012 he was signed to Funzalo Records based on the strength of his first album . Both albums were full band productions with Cammarata playing all the instruments and doing all the vocals.

His music has been described as “an amalgam of gutter-blues, spaghetti-western mastication, and late night innuendo”.
From last.com.
And …

“Slip and slide along the wild and wily blues highway with talented guitarist Lewis Ray Cammarata. Fun, fast, and at times furious. His playing’s up and down the blues-music map, nodding in the direction of Ry Cooder as well as surf maestro Dick Dale, Tom Waits, and even moody soundtrack man Ennio Morricone.”
Courtesy of the editors at download.com

Encouraged by the response to his leathery vocals, subtle guitarwork, and songs inspired by the seven deadly sins, Cammarata has established a large network of fans and performance venues.

Please tell us about your art.
From Cammarata himself, a snippet of an interview he conducted with Red Velvet Media upon the release of his first Funzalo album.

“When Funzalo asked me to write a short ‘bio’ for my new album my initial reaction was one of abject befuddlement. How exactly does one go about writing about one’s self without coming off as a self-aggrandizing twit? Once I was assured that it would be reviewed for ‘twittyness’ and self indulgence, and revised by saner minds, I became more comfortable with the idea. And this is what came of it.

All of the songs on “Carry Your Own Water” (except for “This Girl’s Got Murder on Her Mind”) were recorded, along with approximately 20 other songs, in my home studio during an 18 month period starting in early 2010. Thirteen of the songs were included on my first Funzalo release “Lemme Outa Here”. Again risking any semblance of humility, I played all the instruments and did all the vocals myself. This was a decision born out of a combination of pragmatism and a sense of self reliance. Basically it was just easier to do everything myself, and I just didn’t trust anyone else to interpret the parts the way I heard them. The lone exception to this is the aforementioned “This Girl’s Got Murder on Her Mind”.

“As for the songs themselves, I very, very rarely write from personal experience. It’s not that my life is uneventful. I just find it difficult to relate the events in a context that doesn’t come off as metaphorically cumbersome. So instead, I work from the viewpoint of an observer … Inspiration comes more readily from books (thank you Elmore Leonard), television and movies (pop culture rules), snippets of overhead conversations (barroom intellectuals), and observational reconnaissance (the deaf couple on the beach watching the fireworks display). In the end this may smack of cultural copyright infringement. But as a great man may possibly have once said, ‘You take your inspiration where you can get it, stick it in your pocket, and take it to your grave’. “

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
Most venues don’t want artists to perform original songs. The ones that do use either the ‘pay to play’ format or a ‘cut of the bar ring’. Which is usually 10%. This forces writers to perform cover material if they want to play anywhere.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My two Funzalo albums can be downloaded at about 150 digital outlets – Amazon, Bandcamp, and Sound Cloud among them. Songs can be streamed at Spotify, Pandora, and other fine online purveyers of fine music.

In addition you can view three videos done at Bob McCarrols “live @ bobs.com’ using the following links..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMhefmLO4L8 – Satans Knockin’ at the Door
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCKJoFAtb8w – I’ll See You in Hell
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ39JT20lKA – Dirty Pool

My hope is that more people get familiar with indy artists like myself, and support us by purchasing downloads.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Michael Fadyk

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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