Nobody has explored the borderlines between Blues and Soul as successfully as Robert Cray. A Blues guitarist with a distinctively economical sustainless style and a set of Soul pipes to die for, Robert was among the leaders of the 80’s Blues revival, along with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins. Robert has more than fulfilled his early promise by taking modern Blues into new territory, and he continues to tour the world, headlining Festivals and making new fans wherever he goes. He has released some great albums, and picked up five Grammys along the way.
Robert was born in Columbus, Georgia into a military family, so a nomadic childhood followed as his father was posted to California, Virginia and Germany before settling in Tacoma, Washington. During the 60’s in Germany, the local music was heavily influenced by the British rock scene, and Robert gave up his piano lessons to take up guitar. When the family moved back to the States, Robert began to explore the Blues and in 1974 he formed The Robert Cray Band in Eugene, Oregon. They built up a strong local following, and picked up work backing Blues artists on their tours of the North-West. The band’s recording debut came in 1980 with ‘Who’s Been Talking’, which had a couple of Cray compositions as well as covers of Willie Dixon‘s title track and Freddie King‘s ‘The Welfare’. A second effort, ‘Bad Influence’, featured many more Cray songs and the quality of Robert’s playing made Blues fans aware of an emerging new talent, selling a million copies. In 1985 he issued a strong third album, ‘False Accusations’ but a bigger splash was made later that year by the Grammy winning ‘guitar battle’ album ‘Showdown’ where Robert played with Texas Bluesmen Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins.
Robert’s own breakthrough album followed in 1986, with ‘Strong Persuader’, which hit the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and the single ‘Smokin’ Gun’ was a crossover hit that made Robert a high-profile new star. Great songs like ‘Guess I Showed Her’ and ‘Right Next Door’, superb production values and backing from The Memphis Horns made this a shoo-in for a second straight Grammy. The sensual vocals and sexual metaphors in the lyrics went a long way to making Robert the first sex-symbol the Blues had seen in a while.
Robert performs ‘Smokin’ Gun’ for Dutch TV;
[weaver_youtube http://youtu.be/8orzLEAvf3c id=videoid sd=0 percent=100 ratio=0.5625 center=1 rel=1 https=0 privacy=0]
The albums ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ (another Grammy),and ‘Midnight Stroll’ continued Robert’s exploration of Soul/Blues and although they sold enough to feature well in the Blues Charts, they did not cross into the mainstream. In 1992, Robert joined a host of modern Blues players on John Lee Hooker‘s album ‘The Healer’, paying tribute to the Legend, and he was invited to repeat the trick on John Lee’s follow up collaboration ‘Mr. Lucky’, where he banters with The Master on the title track. All Robert’s albums since 1995 have made the Top 3 of the American Blues Charts. The only exception was a live set from the BBC which was issued shortly after the barnstorming ‘Live from Across the Pond’ album (which made No.1 in 2007), a brilliant collection taken from a series of concerts when Robert’s band opened for Eric Clapton in one of his ‘seasons’ at the Albert Hall. This album was issued by Robert’s own label, Nozzle Records, which also released his latest studio album ‘This Time’ in 2009.
Dramatic solo from Albert Collins in Robert’s track ‘The Dream’;
[weaver_youtube http://youtu.be/CO40Ttiz1F8 id=videoid sd=0 percent=100 ratio=0.5625 center=1 rel=1 https=0 privacy=0]
[stextbox id=”custom” caption=”Robert Cray Discography” float=”true” align=”left” width=”300″]Robert’s breakthrough album is a great place to start if you haven’t got any of his stuff, and an absolute bargain if your vinyl is played out!
[/stextbox]Robert continues to tour the world, and whether you see him at a big festival or an intimate club, those warm vocal tones and that distinctive, almost archaic guitar style, will remind you that the Blues has come a long way, and taken many turnings down the road, but it always speaks to the Soul.