There are some artists who chip away at the coal face of an existing musical genre, and there are those who through the dint of their efforts take a form that is in danger of becoming moribund and predictable and give it an effective and new direction. Robert Cray is one of the latter – who shook up the blues scene in the 1980s and forty years later in 2014 topped the blues charts with his release In My Soul. That’s probably why he’s picked up a handful of Grammys along the way as well as being noted as a favourite of Barak Obama (remember him?). In the intervening years he’s shaped a special niche for himself – too soulful for some hardcore fans, too many touches of rock for others, but it is this striking individuality that makes him, like Eric Bibb, someone who truly crosses boundaries.
Yes a great blues guitarist and a gospel-tinged singer who paid his dues through the late seventies: that’s all true but it overlooks the breadth of material Robert Cray writes and produces – ranging far beyond “just the blues”. From lighthearted funky grooves like Hip Tight Onions – making more than a nod to the classic sound of Booker T & The MGs – or classic cuts like Smoking Gun which just rocks so nicely to the title track of his album Twenty which is a moving meditation on the motivations and potential fates of those who join the US Army.
There’s a rare opportunity coming up to see this master of the guitar test his mettle once more on a tour set to draw on his four decades of recording – fusing his talents as songwriter, player and singer. It’ll be hot! And that’s cool!
UK Tour dates for 2017
Sat 29 Apr Cheltenham Town Hall
Sun 30 Apr Liverpool Philharmonic Hall9
Mon 1 May Edinburgh Queen’s Hall
Wed 3 May London Cadogan Hall
Thu 4 May Salisbury City Hall
Fri 5 May Guildford G Live
Sun 7 May Birmingham Town Hall
Mon 8 May Buxton Opera House
Tue 9 May Gateshead The Sage
And, if you can’t wait that long, check out Robert Cray’s appearance on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert :