John W. Barry, Poughkeepsie Journal

Musician Robert Cray called the blues the, “Fact checker. That’s what the music is…What’s really going on? How are you and your life doing?”

Like Eric Clapton or Carlos Santana, musician Robert Cray has fashioned for himself over decades a signature sound on the electric guitar.

Cray, who is also a vocalist, does not seem to use a lot of special effects on his guitar, which he uses primarily to stoke a love of the blues, both in himself and his audience. Cray’s guitar sound is plucky, unadorned, with a bit of an edge tinged in just the right places, with just the right amount of passion and propulsion.

The signature sound that Cray demands from his instrument has such a strong personality that you can almost imagine him verifying his identity when signing a check or a contract by reeling off a little lick, instead of offering up his John Hancock.

“He has a great tone,” musician Myles Mancuso of LaGrange said of Cray’s guitar sound. “He has that classic ‘Strat’ sound. And his voice is so silky smooth.”

The Robert Cray Band on Saturday night will perform at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie. Joining Cray will be Les Falconer on drums; Dover Weinberg on keyboards and piano; and Richard Cousins on bass.

Mancuso, joined by his band, will serve as the opening act for the man who has won five Grammys and earned 15 nominations. Performing with Mancuso, who will sing and play guitar and keyboards, will be Anthony Candullo on bass and Joe Piteo on drums.

“There’s a lot of responsibility there,” Mancuso said of opening up for Cray. “It’s stressful but it’s also fun at the same time. You have to really give the vibe for the whole evening. I’m looking forward to that. It’s an honor for me.”

Once Mancuso warms up the crowd, Cray will arrive on stage and work at his craft live, in front of an audience. Cray told the Journal during a recent telephone interview that he hopes his craft will speak to those assembled in the audience, because it carries a universal message.

Though the blues emerged out of so many different types of hardships — being poor, being unemployed, being discriminated against and being dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife among them — this genre of music remains relevant, Cray said, regardless of whether you live a comfortable lifestyle or struggle on a daily basis to barely get by.

Cray acknowledged that many of his fans will probably enjoy a nice evening out Saturday and could very likely have a nice dinner, in a nice restaurant, before they see him take the stage. But after the show, Cray continued, “You go home and deal with your real life. What’s really going on?”

Cray called the blues the “Fact checker. That’s what the music is. … How are you and your life doing? Or your relationship or you and your girl? Did you over-extend yourself when you went out to dinner before the concert? What’s the reality of life? Be honest with yourself.”

Known for his emergence as a musician out of the Northwest, which also produced Pearl Jam and Jimi Hendrix, Cray’s father was in the U.S. Army and the family moved a lot. With a lot of time on his hands, Cray picked up the guitar around the same time the Beatles inspired many to pick up the instrument. He cites Hendrix, Buddy Guy and B.B. King as major influences. But, according to, a performance by guitarist Albert Collins at Cray’s high-school dance was a major turning point in his life.

That performance by Collins prompted Cray to launch the Robert Cray Band in 1974, according to Cray’s website. Two years later, the Robert Cray Band was backing up Collins.

The Robert Cray Band endured and among the albums it released was “Strong Persuader,” which came out in 1986 and reached number 13 on the U.S. charts. At the heart of it all is the blues, which, even after all these years, provides Cray with new territory to conquer, new emotions to contend with and a rich vein of raw materials to mine.

“It might sound simple to a lot of people,” Cray said of the blues, “but this stuff is moving. It’s really deep.”

John W. Barry: jobarry@poughkeepsie, 845-437-4822, Twitter: @JohnBarryPoJo


Robert Cray Band

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 31

Where: Bardavon 1869 Opera House, 35 Market St., Poughkeepsie

Admission: $65 for the first 10 rows; $50; $45 for Bardavon members

Information: Tickets can be purchased at the Bardavon Box Office, 35 Market St., Poughkeepsie, which can be reached at 845-473-2072; at the UPAC box office, 601 Broadway Kingston, which can be reched at 845-339-6088; and through Ticketmaster, which can be reached at 1-800-745-3000. Bardavon member benefits are not available through Ticketmaster.

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