Ray Villadonga prefers to identify himself as a "Tampan."
While many Tampa natives opt to be called a "Tampanian," Ray thinks his way is more absorbent of the Cigar City's multi-ethnic history and culture. A third generation Tampan who was born and raised in Ybor City, Ray has absorbed plenty of Tampa's history. His latest musical creation--10 Ear Flixs (available HERE on CD Baby)--is an album that oozes Cigar City lore with the style and class of an old pro.
Walk down Ybor City's famed Seventh Avenue today and you'll see a quaint urban landscape that props itself up for the Saturday night crowd like an aging prostitute trying to win over the wallets of the day with a desperate blend of sleazy charm and still-got-it promise. Walk down Seventh with Ray and he'll paint a picture of the prostitute when she was in her prime. Buy him a beer and he'll give you a peek up her dress.
Ray knows the history of Tampa like a native whose story isn't for sale. He's one of the last living connections between the present and the tabaqueros, who brought the cigar industry to Ybor more than 125 years ago. He knows all the legends and most of the old men with bad toupees who've seen it all through a pall of cigar smoke.
There's magic in 10 Ear Flixs that will touch music lovers in and beyond Tampa, but the real treasure is Ray. Visit his site like you would a friend's house for dinner. Bring a bottle and make yourself comfortable. You'll be there a while and enjoy every minute.
Here is an cut from a series of videos I made with Ray to help him promote his new album. In this video, Ray explains his muse for the song "WesTampa."
Special thanks to Jeff Fay for the photos. Visit his site at jefffay.com. Then go to Ray's at RayVilladonga.com. Go now. Get cultured.