Monday, May 07, 2012

Robert Cray Live Across The Pond

Prior to the release of Robert Cray’s breakout recording, Strong Persuader, I happened to listen and record off the radio a live broadcast of the 1982 Long Beach Blues Festival among whose highlights was a young Robert Cray. One could hear a definite Albert Collins influence even if Cray’s guitar playing didn’t quite have Collins’ fretful sound. Yet Cray’s serpentine guitar playing had its own charms.

Over two decades later, Cray remains one of the few blues acts to break through and reach a pop audience in that period. After many studio albums, Cray and his Band has just issued Live From Across the Pond (Nozzle) from shows at Royal Albert Hall where he was opening for Eric Clapton. He perhaps has left behind the Jesse Fortune number Too Many Cooks, but still performs Phone Booth, and several songs from Strong Persuader, including Right Next Door (Because of Me), I Guess I Showed Her and Bad Influence, along with other numbers that he has added over the intervening years such as Poor Johnny, and his anti-Iraq War number Twenty from his recent studio recordings.

Perhaps because of his success, Cray has been criticized by some for the clean sound. Some would accuse his music of being antiseptic, although the performances here belie that claim as Cray does invest quite some passion into his performances. Cray’s clean, urbane delivery of songs and his guitar playing should be viewed as more of style than relating to the substance of his performances. This music comes off much more successfully than the heavy metal sound of some blues rockers and comes off as a nice summing up of what he has meant musically for over two decades. A very nice release that will please his fans and even some who have shied away from his more recent work.

This review originally ran in the October 2006 DC Blues Calendar and the September/October 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 286).  Here is Robert performing Right Next Door, although from the Montreux Jazz Festival.

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