Song You Need to Know: Boo Ray, ’20 Questions’

The rascally charm of nomadic country-blues singer Boo Ray is on full display in the rollicking “20 Questions,” the standout track off his latest album Tennessee Alabama Fireworks. A strutting blast of Muscle Shoals R&B, the song teems with bright horns and slinky organ, as Boo Ray tries in vain to fend off the incessant grilling by his rightfully suspicious — and pissed-off — lover.

“Why’d you leave your car downtown last night?/Who’d you ride with, where did you stay?” he sings, playing the part of his inquisitor, before offering his own terse rebuttal: “What’s the point in asking these questions, if you know the answers I’m gonna say?”

“It’s a good-natured, self-effacing look at some ugly parts of human emotion,” says the North Carolina native, who cut his teeth in the Athens, Georgia, music scene before moving to Nashville, where he’s become a ubiquitous presence with his silver-capped tooth and wiry frame. “But it’s meant to take the shame and guilt out of that, because nobody needs to get crucified. Hey, get off the cross; we need the wood, you know?”

Written by Boo Ray with East Nashville songwriter Bob Lewis, “20 Questions” is an essential entry for a yard-party playlist — a Southern-funk tune custom-built for dancing and singing, especially when Boo spits out an irresistible plea, repeating the word “why” over and over again. It’s a melody line that evokes the best of Tony Joe White and Delbert McClinton, but the secret ingredient is the woozy Wurlitzer and B-3 playing of Jon Coleman, which gels just right with the core of what Boo Ray calls his “redneck rock & roll band”: two Telecasters and a steel guitar.

“We got a communication problem in our time and age, particularly in relationships,” says Boo Ray.

In other words, it’s sometimes OK to ask “why, why, why?”

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