Robert Cray is smooth as silk

By: Tom Leyde

Blues and R&B guitarist Robert Cray is on the road again. This time he’s promoting his latest album, “In My Soul,” his 17th.

The five-time Grammy winner will perform with his band at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Monterey’s Golden State Theater, 417 Alvarado St..

In a telephone interview from Portland, Oregon, Cray, 61, said the new album is being well received.

“It’s going really well. People are digging it,” he said. “We had a really good time making it. And also it’s great to work again with Steve Jordan.”

Jordan produced “In My Soul,” which blends funky originals with surprising covers. Cray describes Jordan as almost a fifth member of the band. It was Jordan who proposed covers of Otis Redding’s “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” and the song “Your Good Thing (Is About to End),” originally recorded by Mable John and a hit for Lou Rauls.

Cray’s music has a natural flow to it. His guitar playing is both gritty and artistic. When asked about it Cray said, “I never thought about myself in that kind of way. I’m just having fun doing what I enjoy doing.”

Based in Southern California, Cray first heard the blues listening to his father’s record collection. Recordings by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf got him hooked on the genre and he wound up getting a guitar and learning blues classics.

“I like the way people (blues singers and musicans) emote and show their soul in the thing they were doing,” he said. “In the early days these big guys had big names like Muddy Waters. … It was cool. There was a reason for them having big names: when you listened to their music you heard it.”

Hearing stories about blues legend Robert Johnson making a deal with the devil also intrigued him.

“When we were teens that stuff was thrilling and exciting to read about and hear about,” he said.

In his early years, Cray played in bar bands and moved around the country. He spent time in Tacoma, Washington, Eugene Oregon, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Critics pounced on him for drifting too far from the traditional blues shore with his music. But he kept pushing himself and his bands to find their own musical niche.

“We all grew up in the Sixties and listened to a lot of different music,” he said. “When you and I listened to music during the day everything was on the radio (not pigeonholed into distinct genres). … I listened to everything. … Ideas come from all those things.”

He and his band did it their way and it worked.

“We had our band and we played the music the way we wanted to do it,” he said.

They found no purpose in playing a cover just like it was laid down on a record. “We just tried to do what we wanted to do and do the cover our own way.”

Gleaning ideas from such sources as rock and roll, R&B, gospel and soul, gave Cray his own identity as an artist and his career skyrocketed.

He has been nominated 15 times for Grammys and has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He’s also received four W.C. Handy Awards from The Blues Foundation, a huge accomplishment for a basically self-taught guitarist.

As a songwriter, Cray said his method is more spontaneous than having a regular routine, although he finds that an art in itself.

“Most of my writing is (done) at home when I’m not touring,” he said. I can be at the chopping board chopping vegetables or in the shower and I have to get out of the shower and grab the notebook or the tape recorder.”

He said he finds inspiration for his songs from observing what’s going on around him and in the world.

“I’ve been taking pages from my past for the longest time,” he said. “But you can take it from other people and what they’re going through … and politics and crises around the world. I’ve been getting ideas from all of those things for the last twenty years. And more and more, as we get older, we look outside of our immediate world … so we use that as songs.”

Cray is no stranger to the Monterey Peninsula. Years ago he played at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival and he has appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival several times.

“It’s been awhile since we played the (jazz) festival and it’s great because we get to see other people,” he said.

Showtime for Cray’s performance is 8 p.m. Tickets range from $26-$52. Call 831-649-1070 for reservations or buy them online at the theater website.

Tom Leyde is a free lance writer and former Californian staff member living in Salinas. Contact him at

To attend

What: Guitarist Robert Cray and band in concert

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25

Where: Golden State Theater, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey

Tickets: $26-$52

Information: 831-649-1070 or




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Robert Cray on marriage, Oregon roots and why he’ll never retire

By David Greenwald

Photo Credit: Jeff Katz

It’s been almost 30 years since Robert Cray’s 1986 album “Strong Persuader,” a release that sold millions and made the bluesman an unlikely MTV regular. But Cray has his mind on another birthday. 

“We’ve been talking about 40 years of the existence of the band,” he said over the phone from his home in Southern California. Started in 1974, the Robert Cray Band spent its early years in Eugene — joined by a singer and harmonica player named Curtis Salgado and inspiring future Blues Brother John Belushi. (That’s Cray making a cameo on bass in “Animal House,” filmed in Eugene.)

And Cray has one more anniversary to celebrate: 25 years with his wife, Susan Turner-Cray. He and his band will headline the Aladdin Theater on Friday: I called him up to talk about his romantic advice, his Oregon past and why he’ll never retire.

I saw on Facebook that you just had your 25th wedding anniversary, congratulations.

Robert Cray: Yesterday. Thank you so much.

What’s your advice on making it that long?

RC: Well, I mean, we’re good friends. And it might help also that I spend a lot of time on the road (laughs).

Your early days were in Eugene. Does coming to Portland remind you of that time?

RC: It does, even though Portland has changed so much since the time I was there. There’s still a kinship. It’s home. I have a lot of friends that are still there, too.

Do you keep in touch with your band and people from the early days? We see a lot of Curtis Salgado around town.

RC: I see Curtis every so often on the road, and we see emails from Peter Boe, who was in the band for a long time. It’s good to see everybody’s doing well.  

The Waterfront Blues Festival has been going since the ’80s. What has it been like to see something like that take off here?

RC: It’s fantastic. The last time we were there, I couldn’t believe how many people go to an event like that, it was a sea of people. And that’s a great thing for the city to have happen.

You played in 2011. Do you think we’ll see you back there again any time soon?

RC: I hope so.

You’ve been working with some new band members for the last couple of years. Does the lineup feel pretty settled?

RC: It feels good, yeah. Making change is always nice. The guys are really doing well and we’re having a lot of fun. That’s the most important thing.

Your album “Nothin But Love” was influenced by the recession. As the economy improves, what are you looking to write about? 

RC: You know, I don’t know. Whatever’s happening, whatever crosses my mind to write about — whatever comes about from the rest of the guys in the band who participate in the songwriting. In the past, with the homeless thing going on and the housing crisis and the war and all that stuff, those things are ongoing but it depends on my feelings… if I just got finished watching something on the news or listening to something on PBS and you get riled up.

Are you someone who watches the news every night?

RC: I keep track of what’s going on, yeah. And I have to say that when we were younger, that I didn’t pay much attention to it. With the traveling around, I guess we’re more attuned to what goes on around it, in and out of the country.

Do you have any new music coming up after this Portland show?

RC: Actually, back in December, we recorded — for the 40th anniversary — four live shows, rehearsals, and we had some guests with us. We’re going to release a compilation, a combination DVD/live album package in, I think, May. The rest of the year, we’ll be touring, we’re going to go to Europe again a couple times this year and the States.

Do you see yourself out there for another 40 years or are you thinking about your retirement eventually?

RC: I’m not thinking about retirement (laughs). I can understand how people like B.B. King or (the) Rolling Stones, nobody really seriously considers retiring because what would you do?

When you get up on stage now vs. when you were getting started, what’s changed? Are you more confident?

RC: Well, yeah. Things have changed quite a bit. In the early days, I couldn’t even speak to an audience. It’s not that I do a lot more speaking these days. I know that going up on stage is about making the music and having a good time. So that is first and foremost on my mind now, and I don’t think about being nervous.

Robert Cray, Aladdin Theater, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show. Tickets: sold out.

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Robert Cray, King of the Blues, Impresses (of Course) at B.B. King’s

By Chris Kornelis

Better Than: …My Lord, where does one begin?

It was down at the crossroads – in this case, 42nd and 8th – where Blues Hall of Famer and internationally acclaimed recording and touring artist Robert Cray brought his band to perform for an adoring crowd Friday night. Cray is one of those rare trinities in music: an excellent musician, who is also an excellent vocalist, who is also an excellent songwriter.

Any one of Cray’s gifts would be sufficient to launch a career, and the fact that Cray has sustained and even enhanced his guitarist/vocalist/songwriter skills over a 40 year career is truly astounding. Cray’s most recent album, 2014’s In My Soul, is proof positive of this. Not only is it as good as anything he’s ever released, it also showcases his unique range and versatility as an artist, covering familiar Cray blues-rock territory (“You Move Me”) to sounds reminiscent of late ’60s/’70s soul classics (“Hold On”), to funk (“Nobody’s Fault But Mine”) to soft rock ballads (“What Would You Say” which Cray refers to as his “hippie song” given its altruistic lyrical themes.)

The show began promptly at 8 p.m., as the audience was still filtering in from a bitter cold evening outside. The band took the stage before what was ultimately a capacity crowd (standing room only, and there wasn’t a blank space to be found on the floor). Cray’s 16-song set list was appropriately weighted towards tracks from In My Soul, but also payed homage to the full breadth of his career.

The show was delivered with the virtuosity one has come to expect from Cray and his highly talented band (which includes Richard Cousins on bass, Dover Weinberg on keyboards, and Les Falconer on drums). Case in point, towards the end of the set, the band concluded its rendition of “Right Next Door (Because of Me)” with a perfectly executed fade to silence (as a live band!!) which so thoroughly mesmerized the crowd that Cray felt it necessary to, cleverly, step to the microphone to mimic the sound of a fly, which he then swatted from the air in order to break the silence. Indeed, so expected is Cray’s pitch-perfect performance, when he missed a single note on one of his guitar solos halfway through the set, it was enough to cause him to break into open laughter and then shake it off and keep on playing. A sustained standing ovation at the set’s end brought the band back for a two-song encore before packing it in for the evening.

Critical Bias: How does one properly hype an artist as talented as Cray, who is so noteworthy for his humility and gentle manner? In my opinion, he is the rightful King of the Blues.

Overheard: “Oh, this is great! Only in New York!” From a group of tourists sitting beside me. We agree, and we hope you enjoy your visit…

Random Notebook Dump: Why don’t they have artists like the Robert Cray Band play at the Super Bowl? A little bit of substance would be good for that kind of spectacle, and certainly wouldn’t be any less entertaining.

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Robert Cray brings the blues to the Bardavon

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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Grammy-Winning Bluesmen Robert Cray Band Return to The Orleans Showroom February 28-March 1

January 16, 2015 by 

Renowned rhythm and blues musician Robert Cray and his band will perform at The Orleans Showroom February 28 and March 1.  

Originally formed in 1974, the Northwest-based Robert Cray Band played gigs in Portland and Eugene, Ore.,  before branching out to Seattle and the San Francisco area. Early on, the band toured with guitar great Albert Collins, and by 1983, they were sharing the stage at Carnegie Hall with the likes of John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon.

Credited by Rolling Stone with reinventing the blues with his “distinct razor-sharp guitar playing,” rock blues icon Robert Cray “introduced a new generation of mainstream rock fans to the blues” with his album “Strong Persuader” in 1986.

Since then, Cray has recorded sixteen Billboard-charting studio albums and received 15 Grammy Award nominations, of which he won five. His most recent album, “In My Soul,” was released in 2014 and spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Blues Albums chart, peaking at #1.

Not only known for his guitar skills, this multi-talented singer, songwriter and producer has played with a cross-section of legendary musicians, including Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Tina Turner.

Cray was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. At 57, he was one of the youngest living recipients of the prestigious honor.

The members of The Robert Cray Band include Les Falconver on percussion, Dover Weinberg on keyboards and Richard Cousins on bass guitar.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are available starting from $29.95, plus tax and convenience fees, and can be purchased at any Boyd Gaming Box Office, by calling 702.284.7777, or visiting

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Robert Cray in Beverly Hills

by Larson Sutton

Do they get the blues in Beverly Hills?What may be hard for the rest of the world to imagine, in a town typecast for Rodeo Drive opulence, sprawling gated estates, and lunching power-brokers negotiating deals of global motion picture domination, was indeed happening on Wilshire Boulevard.Fortunately, there, too was the cure, in a sweet and soulful dose of the Robert Cray Band at the glorious and historic Saban Theatre.

Taking the stage of the art-deco masterwork just inside the city limits was the 61-year-old masterwork himself, celebrating his 40th year as a musician, and with his five-piece ensemble executing a performance as impeccably sharp as their attire.In killer suits, sans jacket for drummer Les Falconer and shoes for barefooted bassist Richard Cousins, the quartet was augmented for its opening three by ‘The Cats’ horn section of saxman Trevor Lawrence and trumpeter Steve Madaio, both of whom appeared on this year’s In My Soul.Chopping at his trademark Strat, Cray coaxed his snaking lines on show-starter “I Shiver,” bending and moaning in step with each note, then rapidly firing on the lowdown, last call blues “I’ll Always Remember You,” from 2012’s Nothin But Love.

An oft-used Cray preamble of “funky” preceded “I Guess I’ll Never Know,” true to its introduction, before the Cats departed and the multiple Grammy-winner spun back the clock on “The Road Down,” and even further back on the title track from 1985’s Bad Influence.The slow-flow lava of Dover Weinberg’s organ seized as it scorched on “Two Steps From the End,” before Cray carved up “Won’t Be Coming Home.”Joining as a guest, producer and percussionist Steve Jordan, a man for whom drums is as much a verb as it is noun, doubled up on a side-stage kit with Falconer for a thumping and thundering “These Things,” yielding to the quartet for Cray’s Strong Persuader hit “Right Next Door (Because of Me),” the context of infidelity Cray claims was inspired by a denying Cousins, and the band’s hippy origins on “What Would You Say,” evidence he pointed to in the form of Cousins’ dreads and naked feet.The Cats and Jordan reconvened with the four for a stage-swelling “Forecast Calls For Pain,” and another in an evening loaded with Cray solos that, with surgical precision, cut to the core of the core.The instrumental “Hip Tight Onions,” and “Love Gone to Waist” from the Jordan-produced Take Your Shoes Off, tightened up the grooves as encores until the lingering “Deep In My Soul” dropped the curtain on the evening.

As incongruous as the blues in these high-rent heights may seem, it’s as deserving a place for the Robert Cray Band as any.Cray’s matchless style is dignified and dirty, beguiling and sure, leaving behind the flash for those who really need it.In other words, as perfect a fit for Beverly Hills as Beale Street.

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Review: The Robert Cray Band at the Lobero Theatre

Blues Plus Soul Equaled Bliss on Monday, December 8


It’s coming up on three decades since Robert Cray broke through the invisible wall separating heartfelt, soulful blues from mainstream success with his Grammy-winning 1986 album Strong Persuader. Although not much has changed in Cray’s approach, that is unquestionably a good thing. His sold-out Monday night show at the Lobero found the guitarist/singer in a quartet that featured longtime bass player Richard Cousins along with relative newcomers Les Falconer on drums and Dover Weinberg on keyboards. The sound was tight, the groove was solid, and the opportunity to hear Cray’s concise, syncopated solos in tandem with his soaring vocals clearly appealed to the audience. Although Cray reached as far back as Strong Persuader for some of his material, it was his more recent work, including tracks from Twenty (2005), This Time (2009), and In My Soul (2014), that had the majority swaying and nodding.

Cray blends the traditional electric blues of such elders as Albert Collins and B.B. King with the soul production values associated with labels like Stax and Hi Records to powerful effect. Whether he’s emoting through a steamy ballad like “Poor Johnny” from Twenty or cutting up on a novelty number like “Chicken in the Kitchen” from This Time, Cray’s voice remains pure and powerful, a reminder of such soul masters as O.V. Wright and Sam Cooke. In what was perhaps the evening’s most unbridled moment of sheer boogie, Cray and the band trotted out a new original that he wrote in tribute to Booker T. as an encore. The song, rather flippantly titled “Hip Tight Onions,” sent the satisfied crowd home with groovy Hammond B3 chords ringing in their ears, making for a most happy soulful holiday celebration.

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Concert Review: Robert Cray — On from the downbeat

By David Blankenship


You could almost hear it as the band just looked at each other the second the lights hit them. Everyone absolutely was with the band on beat one. Within a few seconds it was clear that this night would be special. Bands, even great ones, usually need part of the first song to get their footing — time to put everything in the pocket, time for the sound guy to get levels right. This didn’t happen Saturday night at the Aud as Robert Cray and his band were locked into each other instantly. It wasn’t just the band that made this night so special, the sound from the Aud staff was also instantaneously near perfect — punchy enough to feel it in your chest, clear enough to hear any part from any instrument at any time, loud enough to make you smile and quiet enough to keep your ears from ringing. This room was made for music like Robert Cray.
The show kicked off with “I Shiver,” a desperate minor key story about a haunted man who can’t get the woman he wants. Underneath the clever lyrics, what made the song special was drummer Les Falconer keeping eighth notes on the hi-hat, which allowed bassist Richard Cousins to create the mood with a syncopated line that fit the song’s angst to a tee. …

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Robert Cray on Being a Blues Legend: “At the End of the Day, You Have to Play Tomorrow”

Prior to 1986, Robert Cray was just another talented blues guitarist wondering where his next gig was going to be. But after the Strong Persuader album and the hit single “Smoking Gun,” Cray became a viable commercial proposition across several genres. Cray has parlayed that success into a four- decade-long career that has earned him four Grammys and a spot in the Blues Hall of Fame.

Speaking from a hotel room while on tour and in anticipation of his performance on Sunday, August 31 at the Bedford Blues and BBQ Festival, Cray spoke with DC9 about his love for the blues, his cameo in the film Animal House and how he’s maintained such a loyal following for all of these years.

DC9 at Night: How did you get introduced to the blues?

Cray: Well, I grew up listening to blues music at home. I rediscovered it again with some teenage friends of mine. We were about 15 or 16 years old.

Who in your family was the blues fan?

Well, my dad had the B.B. King and John Lee Hooker records. He also had records by Bobby Blue Bland, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. We would sit home and listen to a lot of gospel music that was played on Sundays.

Is blues the only form of music to originate in America?

Blues is the root for most American music. When we go abroad, people look to America for the music they enjoy. That could be blues and country and rock and those are all a part of American music. Those kinds of music are known worldwide.

You are a renowned guitarist, but a lot of rock bands can get by with an average guitarist. With the blues, it seems you have to have an excellent guitarist.

It all depends on your approach. I mean, what kind of blues music you are playing? There are blues bands that have a front man who just basically plays guitar. And then there are bands that are more band-oriented. There’s a difference I think. There are people who play in an ensemble and there are guys who are up there with a guitar in their hands trying to be the guitar player.

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Robert Cray performs his new love letter to classic soul and R&B

By Darrell Smith

The album cover is the first clue – a black-and-white photo of a suit-and-tie-clad Robert Cray in profile, hands on his trusty Fender Stratocaster, the 1960s-era stereo logo in the corner with its reassurance that the recording you’re holding “can also be played on mono equipment.” What’s inside tells you the rest.

“In My Soul,” the 17th studio release from the Grammy-winning blues vocalist and guitarist, is a love letter to the classic soul and rhythm-and-blues artists who inspired Cray when he was growing up: Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, and, perhaps Cray’s most direct influence, the late R&B legend Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Cray and his band make a rare Sacramento stop Friday at the Crest Theater in support of “In My Soul,” part of a West Coast swing on his world tour.

Once a mainstay of the old Sacramento Blues Festival, “we haven’t been around for a while,” Cray said with a small laugh. He was calling from his Los Angeles rehearsal space. The room, he said, still holds a memento from his last trip to the capital city: a baseball bat from the Sacramento River Cats and Raley Field dated 2003.

“In My Soul” reunites Cray, 61, with in-demand producer and percussionist Steve Jordan, who helmed Cray’s Grammy-winning 2000 release, “Take Your Shoes Off,” and who has lent his deep-in-the-pocket drumming to everyone from Eric Clapton and BB King to John Mayer and Alicia Keys.

Jordan played a pivotal role on the new album as well. In addition to laying down percussion, drums and guitar, he offered the idea that became “In My Soul,” an email suggesting a run-through of the funky Redding B-side “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

Bland’s death in 2013 at 83 was also on Cray’s mind, as was the general feel of that era. Still, “these were just going to be ideas until the band put together more material,” Cray said. “But we got into the studio and recorded these songs and we were on the same page – we’d just lost Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland. We were on the same page without even knowing it.”

Recorded over 10 days with his working band of longtime bassist and childhood friend Richard Cousins, Lee Falconer on drums and Dover Weinberg on keyboards, with horns adding to the mix, the result is an album Cray calls one of his most soulful in years.

That’s clear over its 11 tracks including the Redding cut, Lou Rawls’ done-me-wrong “Your Good Thing Is About To End” and Bland’s “Deep In My Soul,” mixed with originals penned by Cray and Cousins, spotlighting Cray’s smooth vocal and stinging single-note guitar lines.

Cray’s not a prolific songwriter; ideas mostly come to him away from the stage and studio. “Most of my writing is done during down time away from the road. When I have a deadline, I go to work,” he said with a laugh. “When I’m at home, that’s where I’m more receptive to ideas. Now, you can sing into your iPhone, or I run into my room and grab my guitar.”

But on “In My Soul,” Cray’s contributions stand up and stand out: the whiskey-and-woe of “Fine Yesterday,” the road ode “You’re Everything” and the insistently grooving “You Move Me.”

One of Cousins’ two offerings, the Booker T and the MGs-inspired “Hip Tight Onions” – a play on the band’s hit “Green Onions” – is also a Cray Band first: an instrumental that carries the torch of the legendary groove-makers.

“That was the first instrumental we’ve ever done. That was definitely a nod to Booker T.,” Cray said. “Our band is a quartet and (Booker T and the MGs) were the epitome of a groove. They played with respect and simplicity.”

After four decades on the road, albums and awards, and another world tour, Cray can afford to take the occasional glance in the rear-view mirror.

There’s plenty to take in: his early apprenticeship at the feet of blues legend Albert Collins; his leap into the mainstream with the 1986 album “Strong Persuader” and its out-of-nowhere hit “Smoking Gun”; performing with fellow guitar legends Eric Clapton and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan (Cray shared the bill for Vaughan’s final performance); his 2011 induction into the Blues Hall of Fame.

“It’s all been fun,” Cray said. “(The band and I) all look the same to each other as we did then. We’re a traveling family unit. We’ve been fortunate to be able to make records and have fans.

“We have fans who say, ‘My parents turned me on to you.’ Or, ‘Strong Persuader’ – we had that on when we conceived, and now he’s in college,”’ Cray continued. “Looks like we’ve been around awhile.”

He’ll have another reminder of his staying power at his next night’s date near Portland, Ore. Opening will be powerhouse blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, daughter of Texas blues legend Johnny Copeland.

“I worked with her dad,” Cray said, that small chuckle returning again. “I held her in my arms.”

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5x Grammy award winner on US TOUR NOW
in support of NEW album IN MY SOUL
Cray recently appeared on PBS’ Tavis Smiley to talk about his journey:

Robert Cray is celebrating forty years since the formation of the Robert Cray Band- a musical journey he began with longtime bassist and childhood friend Richard Cousins and current keyboardist Dover Weinberg. He continues his worldwide tour gracing the stage at festivals and theatres across the US in support of his new album IN MY SOUL (Provogue/Mascot). A majority of shows include co-bills with singer-songwriter John Hiatt.

IN MY SOUL debuted #1 on the blues album charts including Billboard and iTunes; and after a run of sold out performances across Europe, The Robert Cray Band kicked off their US run on June 20 at the University of Utah’s Outdoor Concert Series in Salt Lake City. The tour runs throughout the summer hitting cities that include Cincinnati, Portland, Newport, New York City, Charleston, Sacramento, Chicago, and Seattle to name a few.

Produced by longtime Cray friend Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards), IN MY SOUL is the seventeenth studio album from the legendary axman, and has garnered universal acclaim as a more soulful expression from the 5x Grammy winning artist/ 15x Grammy nominee.

Recently featured on NPR’s World Café and NPR’s Mountain Stage Cray is widely recognized as one of the greatest guitarists of our time, The New Yorker called him “one of the most reliable pleasures of soul and blues for over three decades now “ and Rolling Stone Magazine credits him with having “reinvented the blues with his distinct razor sharp guitar playing.”

“What an incredible singer Cray is. He’s well-known —justifiably—for his six-string prowess and ability to plow through straight-ahead blues,” says critic Bill DeYoung, “but this one comes from somewhere deeper inside of him—it’s got blood, sweat, tears and, yes indeed, lots of soul.” Wall Street Journal adds, “(In My Soul) is a tasteful, laid-back album” while UK Daily Mirror shouts “Impressive!” and gives it 4 stars.

Reuters says the album “is imbued with mellifluous rhythm and blues redolent of the kind of tunes that came from the Chess and Stax record labels in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s,” Yahoo Music! raves, “Cray is never less than good” and USA Today puts the album track “Fine Yesterday” in its Top 10 Playlist.

The youngest living member to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, Robert Cray has sold over 12 million records, has his own line of Fender guitars and has established himself as a genre defining artist- a signature blend of r&b, pop, rock, soul and traditional blues.

In conjunction with the tour, Starbucks will be featuring in store play of select songs from the new album, including “What Would You Say”, “You’re Good Thing Is About To End” and “Pillow” in all of its 7900 stores across the US and Canada.

The Robert Cray Band includes Cray (vocals/guitar), longtime bassist Richard Cousins, Dover Weinberg (back with the band on piano/keyboard) and Les Falconer (drums).

For Full List of Tour Dates visit:

Robert Cray finds new soul with recent CD, Mavis Staples on tour


Guitarist and singer Robert Cray is known primarily as a blues musician, but this year, he and his band made a Memphis soul album.

“We must have all eaten the same cereal or something, because we came in with all this soul music,” says Cray, who will perform some of the songs from “In My Soul” on Saturday at the Power Center in Ann Arbor.

Cray will co-headline with Mavis Staples as part of the city’s Summer Festival Mainstage series. The festival, a mix of musical and comedy performances, activities, exhibits and screenings, wraps up July 6.

“In My Soul” includes original compositions along with covers of classic cuts by Otis Redding, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Isaac Hayes. The record also incorporates a sly homage to Booker T. and the MGs titled “Hip Tight Onions,” a mashup of classic MGs titles “Hip Hug-Her,” “Time Is Tight” and “Green Onions.”

The legendary sound of ’60s and ’70s soul giant Stax Records, home to Redding and Booker T., is a major influence on the new material, Cray says.

“It’s Stax — that whole feel of the music that came out of Stax recording studios, and also the Hi Records sound that came out of Memphis, as well,” he says. “Then there’s the blues thing that came out of Memphis, and the rock and roll that came out of Memphis. Everything that came out of Memphis is what I dig a lot.”

Cray was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, but he and his band bring a broad palette of musical influences to the stage. The Beatles were Cray’s original inspiration to pick up a guitar as a youngster, and he saw Jimi Hendrix live on multiple occasions. The varying members of Cray’s band have contributed musical interests ranging from bebop to gospel to South American music.

“People call us a blues band, but we’ve always had the R&B influence in the music,” Cray says.

Audiences for the “In My Soul” tour are getting even more variety because most tour dates feature a co-headlining act. Renowned singer-songwriter John Hiatt shares the bill on most dates, but Saturday’s gig will be one of three costarring gospel stalwart Staples. Cray says teaming with Hiatt and Staples was a natural choice, describing Staples and her sister Yvonne (of the famous Staple Singers) as “great, beautiful people.”

“I think that it’s good for us to pair together. It gives the audience a good show,” Cray says.

Cray says there’s still an audience for blues and soul. Staples has experienced a recent career resurgence, with two successful albums produced by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. Cray suggests that for acts who persevere, there’s strength in staying power.

“When I was starting off in this band, we had to search out people like Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker and Mavis Staples because their popularity had waned,” he says. “But they were all still around.”

Robert Cray and Mavis Staples

8 p.m. Saturday

Power Center, 121 S. Fletcher, Ann Arbor

Tickets $45-$55

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John Hiatt and Robert Cray to co-headline concert at Peace Center

wo of the most highly respected roots musicians of the last three decades are coming to the Upstate.

John Hiatt
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John Hiatt
John Hiatt and Robert Cray will perform July 24 at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville.

Legendary singer-songwriter John Hiatt and blues guitarist Robert Cray will co-headline a concert at 7:30 p.m. July 24 at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville.

Tickets are $45 and $55 and available at the Peace Center box office at 300 S. Main St., online at or by phone at 800-888-7768.

Hiatt, known for his distinctive blend of rock, country, folk and blues, has a rich catalog of fan favorites that include “Thing Called Love,” “Memphis in the Meantime” and “Have a Little Faith in Me.” A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Hiatt has had his songs covered by a diverse range of artists including Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson and Iggy Pop.

Cray, who has a reputation as one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, has written or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Bonnie Raitt and John Lee Hooker. In 2011, the five-time Grammy Award winner became the young living member to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Both artists will perform with full groups: John Hiatt & the Combo and the Robert Cray Band.

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