They're back, and in a big way. Steve and Raena Blais, known as the Steve And Raena Band, will be releasing their debut album/CD together at this year's Fallon Cantaloupe Festival, and it's chock full of new material. Of the 10 original songs on the CD, at least five of them have not been played to a live audience yet, so their anticipation of having the new songs heard by the public is sending their excitement soaring.
The new CD is titled What Lies Ahead and had its beginnings in November 2019 when the couple paused their live performances in favor of dedicating their time to the album's production. But, discussions of creating a new album and how they would go about producing it actually started two years ago.
They originally had 12 songs for the CD, but felt two of them didn't fit with the rest so those two were dropped. Steve said, “All of the songs on the album are on there because they deserve to be on there,” and Raena added, “We just didn't feel they were up to snuff with the others.” One song that is included and titled “Terry Lee”, was written by Steve and included on his own CD released in 2007 as well as on a 2011 CD released by their band called “Driven”. Raena said of this song, “We have always played different versions of 'Terry Lee', but we re-imagined it for the new What Lies Ahead album.”
They took some time away from production during COVID, and when they revisited the album late in 2020, they had a fresh set of eyes and ears. Raena said “We came back at it in full force, changing the album name, dropping two songs, laying down more tracks, and putting more into the album to give it a fuller sound.” The first recording of the CD was similar to their live performances where Steve plays guitar and both of them sing. However, they decided that the new CD should have more punch and started laying down more tracks with additional instrumentation and vocal harmonies. Between the two of them, the couple did all of the vocals and played all of the instruments for the CD recorded on separate tracks – guitar, bass, drums, percussion, piano, organ, and harmonica. The only exception was on two songs where their friend Mckenzie Warren joined them to play the viola, as Raena said, “Neither of us could play the viola, so we tapped our friend for that.”
When discussing the album's production, Steve said, “We put down different layers for each song and just fell in love with them. It was like building a recipe where you add different spices to bring out more flavors. We put all these layers into the songs to church it up, bringing about a full-bodied sound.” Raena added, “We tried to paint each song as you would a picture, with each of the layers being like different colors and capturing them. When we are playing on stage, it's just the two of us and we're not able to create those layers all at once. With the album, we took the opportunity to share the songs with they way we hear them with multiple colors.” They did both acknowledge though that creating that layered sound on stage would be far more complicated, with Raena saying, “Some songs have multiple vocal harmonies, so I'm singing the melody as well as harmonizing with myself and won't be able to do that on stage. That's four voices at once.” Steve has a similar challenge, as it would be difficult to play bass and lead guitar at the same time. He does however play harmonica and guitar at the same time on a song or two.
Steve started playing guitar about 28 years ago but didn't become serious about it until 2007 when he released a CD. He plays lead, rhythm and bass guitar, piano and organ, and just recently added the harmonica. Raena started playing drums about 28 years ago when she was just eight years old, then started singing two years later. In addition to the drums, she also plays all of the other percussion instruments and began playing guitar last year. The couple started performing together almost 20 years ago, and in 2011, they performed together with bass guitarist John Shullo in a band called “Driven” which also released an CD. “Driven” played in venues in Fallon, Reno, South Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and San Diego. Performing together, the Steve and Raena Band has played at Frey Ranch events and other Fallon and Reno venues.
This year, they will release What Lies Ahead at the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival on Saturday evening, August 28 at 7:00 p.m., the new CD will also be available for purchase that evening, and the performance will also be on iTunes, YouTube and other live streaming sites. Additional information about the Steve And Raena Band can be found on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/steveraenamusic