“The soul and the rhythm of the music heals,” Sunny Ray sings joyfully on her song Messenger. No sentiment can be truer in describing her recently released, ‘Sentient Compass,’ from which the song is taken. Ray has described the album as a journey from start to finish – arguably the defining characteristic of a good album – and ‘Sentient Compass’ definitely also has that journeying sense.
Sonically, the album is an eclectic blend of folk, electronic and indigenous Australian instrumentation. Produced by Brother Beans at Beanstalk Records, the production has an ethereal quality, which allows Ray’s clear, textured voice (reminiscent at times of a youthful and more gentle Gin Wigmore) to float over the top, but never distracts from the heart and soul of the songwriting. The songs are Ray’s own. She explores new age, spiritual and deeply personal topics, delivering her message in an uncompromising and insightful way.
Ultimately, Ray achieves the same thing that makes ‘inspirational’ artists such as Birdtalker, Cataleya Fay and Fia Forsström so effective – songwriting that is both universal and intensely personal. From the album’s title track opener, where Ray sings of being led by her inner “sentience”, to closer We Have Won, where she thanks the listener for “being you”, the narrative is wholly believable because it’s about everyone’s experiences. There’s insightful advice on how to live in the present in the infectious Catch Up & Slow Down, encouragement to listeners to take responsibility for their lives in the gentle but emotional Responsible, and Rains provides an evocative story of accepting sadness, rather than running away – “we’ve got to learn to dance in the rain, or surely we will drown.”
A strong theme on the album is the trials of being different, especially prominent on Messenger, an explosive track about speaking your truth despite societal pressures to conform. This searing critique of modern society is buoyed by Ray’s fierce delivery: “Mamma tell me what’s wrong, what’s right… don’t cry, don’t feel, don’t believe, don’t dream/ Suffer all your life to feed a machine/ Well I want to feel love, want to feel lightness… to roar loud like a lioness.” The plaintive Lone Wolf takes a more introspective view on the matter, dealing with the loneliness and alienation from peers that can stem from being yourself. “Is there anyone out there tuned into this frequency?” Ray asks. “Will I be a lone wolf forever or will it all come to be?”
“Only truth will leave my lips or I have sold my soul,” she sings on the title track, and judging by ‘Sentient Compass,’ there doesn’t seem much danger of that. Sunny Ray has produced a strong body of work, showcasing her abilities as a songwriter and truth-teller. It’s worth a listen.