Music

DonnaMaria, Ray shine on paradise

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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As children in Mountain View, east Kingston, cousins Donovan Smith and Donna Morris had similar musical tastes — classic reggae and American soul. They spent many days singing along to the diverse playlists of Jamaican radio, whether it was Percy Sledge, Sam Cooke, Betty Wright, Bob Marley, Bob Andy, or Marcia Griffiths.

Late last year, they recorded Paradise With You as Ray and DonnaMaria. The ballad is written by Ray and produced by Boris Gardiner who also played bass on the track.

It is the Virginia-based Ray's first released song, but the third for DonnaMaria, who officially launched her vocal career two years ago. Professionally, she teaches English with the New York City Department of Education.

Ray said Paradise With You was actually written for DonnaMaria, but evolved into a duet just before they recorded at Gardiner's home studio in Kingston. She met the veteran musician/producer in Ocho Rios last year while on vacation.

“I met him at FDR (Franklin D Resort) where he was singing and I approached him and told him about my songs. I didn't expect much, but I just wanted someone to take a chance on me,” DonnaMaria recalled.

Gardiner, known for hit songs like I Wanna Wake Up With You and It's so Nice To Be With You, was impressed with the rough takes she had recorded and suggested she record some demo tapes with Vincent Morgan, best known for his work at Studio One with the Soul Defenders.

In August, she and Ray travelled to Jamaica and cut Paradise With You. He credits Gardiner's steady hand for making things work.

“The whole experience was amazing. Boris doesn't let anything pass, and his demands are very high,” Ray said.

Their follow-up song, Light The Way, is scheduled for release in July with DonnaMaria also working on an EP. Both projects are produced by Gardiner.

— Howard Campbell


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