"In My Soul" — a title that sums up what is to come — 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.
"I grew up listening to this kind of music at home. It's in my
blood," Cray, 60, told Reuters before setting off on a tour
encompassing the U.S. East Coast, South and Southwest then
Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
It is old-style bluesy crooning with an edge, epitomized on the
new album by the song "Hold On" in which a stressed-out man
travels home to the woman he loves, the only part of his life
that keeps him sane when the world closes in.
The song, Cray notes in publicity material, was deliberately
produced as a "70s Philly kind of thing" — basically richly
produced soul of the kind that came from Philadelphia.
Other songs on "In My Soul" include covers of 1960s Stax/Volt
artist Otis Redding and Chess's Bobby "Blue" Bland. The
instrumental "Hip Type Onions" is a tribute to Stax's Booker T.
& the MGs.
Cray says producing such an album was not deliberate, it just
"This is a departure, (but) the way we record comes together by
osmosis," he said.
It also does not mean that the current tour will be taken over
by the "In My Soul" sound.
"Having the record just expands our book," Cray said. Some of
the songs will be added to the tour's set but that the band will
not just play from the album.
[to top of second column]
Whatever it plays, there will be guitar.
Cray, a five-time Grammy-winner and Blues Hall of Fame inductee, is
even better known for his playing than his singing, having worked
with the likes of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Lee
This latest soul offering is peppered with what Rolling Stone
magazine has called "razor sharp" guitar work, sometimes stalking
the background, other times dominating out front — all the time at
the crossroads of blues and soul.
It is perhaps a little ironic, given this, that one of Cray's
unexpected claims to fame was on bass, rather than lead, with the
fictional Otis Day & The Knights in the cult film "Animal House".
But his six-string work is what matters, and what persuaded guitar
maker Fender back in 1989 to create a customized Robert Cray
Stratocaster for him and for general sale.
It took around a year and a half to get the pickup just right on
the Strat, Cray said, adding that he does not know how many have
been sold but that he keeps being asked to sign them at shows.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Robin Pomeroy)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.