I probably shouldn't make such a big blanket statement like that, because soon all the trillions of anxious musicians dying for my approval will be calling me nonstop and saying, "But you said...!" ... But yeah, until that happens, I'm willing to say that if you call me and get me to chat with you for 20 minutes on deadline day (like

did), I will come check you out.

Raines plays this Wednesday, May 20 at Evangelo's (200 W. San Francisco St.) at 9 pm. I'm not a bar person, but I definitely am a live music person, and I'm also a nice-dude person, and when I clicked on Raines' Myspace and gave his tunes a bit of a listen I found that I am definitely an Ashley Raines person. (I'm also willing to admit that I'm a sucker for Western shirts.) So it looks like the stars have aligned and I will be up past my bedtime this Wednesday night.

When Raines called, he was just checking to make sure we'd gotten the press release about his shows (9 pm on 5/20 at Evangelo's, as well as 8 pm on 5/21 at the Mine Shaft Tavern). I'd actually gotten about five or six emails about the shows, so I told him he was definitely covered. With another musician this perhaps would have been the end of the conversation, but Raines was just such a gosh-durn nice guy that I chatted away.

Raines told me that, a few years ago, he was actually homeless and lived in Santa Fe for about a year, under a bridge on Alameda. He played and busked around town at many sites that are now deceased, and lamented the plight of buskers in general: apparently, in his Santa Fe day (which was, as it were, a few days before my present Santa Fe day), it was easy to make a few bucks on a streetcorner on the Plaza. But apparently street musicians have mostly gone the way of driving drunk and dogs on restaurant patios; another casualty of a tightened municipality.

In the 20 or so minutes that we talked, Raines told me about the house he'd just bought, his ex-wife, how he'd learned about Madrid, NM from High Times magazine, and how he started to "make it" musically when local businessowners gave him a listen and realized he was significantly better than most of the drunk-ass street musicians trying to make a buck off their guitar.

Indeed, giving Raines a listen on his Myspace page, he's good. I like it. Actually, I kinda love it. It's something that I'm gonna call New-West. I doubt I made that up but I will just say I did. It's almost country, almost folk, almost rock, kind of blues, and definitely something that should be played while wearing cowboy boots. The guitar is fast as hell, the vocals are impeccably pitched and perfectly smooth... What more can I ask for?

Dark, minor-keyed background vocals rise and fall in "Pray For Your Son." The live version of "Highway Man" starts off slow and sexy with the guitar coming in fits and starts and the drums beating heavy; Raines' vocals come in with that perfect new-West sound. And what can I even say about "Hank Williams Saved My Life"? It's one of those songs that you just picture a car speeding, a beer glass filling, some kind of movement as the slide guitar eases right on under the effortless vocals. Ugh, I'm in love.

And to think there's

music, elsewhere from his Myspace page! Oh god. This could get ridiculous.

So watch out, Mr. Raines. I'll be at your show this Wednesday indeed. And we will rock. And to think it's all because you chatted me up on my office phone.