Robert Cray Brings His Blues Back on Tour to Support New Album
Akron, Ohio — Every few years, or at least once a decade, the blues finds a new savior.
Usually it’s some young guitar-picking hotshot such as Gary Clark Jr. or a wave of hip, blues-influenced rockers such as the Black Keys, who remind everyone that the blues are still an important cog in the Pop Music Machine.
Back in the early 1980s, then 30-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Cray was one of the young guns bringing the blues back to pop relevance with his early albums such as 1983’s Bad Influence and his Showdown collaboration with established legends Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins.
But in 1986, Cray hit the big time with the slick double platinum-selling Strong Persuader. That caused a bit of sour grapes among some veteran artists, including Bo Diddley, who once said of the young Cray’s blues bona fides, “he needs to spend some time out behind the woodshed.”
Three decades later, Cray, 60, has evolved from a young gun into a respected singer / songwriter and five-time Grammy winner whose mature voice and pristine sound recalls a less gritty take on the urbane, soul / R&B sound of artists such as Little Milton.
Cray is touring behind his 15th studio album, Nothing But Love, his first in four years. The album finds Cray doing what he does best, singing songs co-written by himself and his band members about relationships — usually crumbling — and some current social and political issues told not from an omniscient or self-righteous, finger-pointing view but from the perspective of folks who are living through them.
On album opener (Won’t Be) Coming Home, Cray sings about the painful moment “the car drives out the driveway and she don’t wave goodbye,” while on the old-school soul tune Great Big Old House, Cray sings of a family home left empty by financial hard times.
On the 9-minute, slow-burning blues tune I’m Done Cryin’, Cray’s protagonist loses his job and tries to retain his dignity because “I’m still a man.”
“I used to have a job, but they shut it down,” Cray sings. “They put the blame on the union (like they always do), and now it’s in some foreign town.”
Cray does lighten up a bit for the old-school rocker Side Dish, using a humorous cooking metaphor for maintaining a strong relationship.
Throughout the album’s 10 tracks, Cray’s now-signature soloing style is evident. He uses a razor thin, sharp tone and has a penchant for short, staccato phrasing that often resembles a melodic crying jag or someone voicing the contents of their sack of woe.