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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Robert Cray


Review by Gary Hill

Robert Cray has always been lumped into the blues category, but this disc (along with the rest of his catalog) really shows that while his music at times fits well within that genre, more often than not it is far more wide reaching than the compartmentalized pigeon hole that the moniker creates. Cray is not content to sit within any one style, instead creating a heartfelt and soulful mix of sounds that incorporates blues, soul , R & B and rock. The end result is always listenable.

While it would be easy to get the impression from the title that this is Cray's 20th album, it is in reality the 14th in his nearly 30 year career. "Twenty" is actually the title of a song on the disc. That song is a poignant piece about a soldier who is killed in Iraq. It is told from his point of view, and while the title is not present in the lyrics Cray has said in interviews that the name is supposed to be the age of the man. Cray himself has the following to say about the CD, "What I like most about the album is the variety of songs. We covered a lot of bases on the record - from a touch of jazz with 'My Last Regret' and 'Two Steps From The End' to 'Does It Really Matter' which has a rock feel to it. Wee have a straight-up blues thing with 'It Doesn't Show' and the song 'Poor Johnny' even has an early reggae or ska kind of beat to it." Generally what an artist says about a piece of their work in a press release can be taken with a grain of salt, but in this instance I'd say that Cray is right on the money.

I would say that the disc would certainly be a strong entry into the catalog for long time fans of Robert Cray. The truth is, though, that it is also a great introduction to his work for those who have only heard some of his songs on the radio - or as unlikely as it seems have never heard him. That sense of variety tends to make this one a nice cross section sort of work - showcasing all the various musical flavors of the artist. Much of the disc includes trademark fiery guitar playing, but not just for the sake of flash. It always adds to the song rather than simply serving as a distractive show of talent without direction. Every song showcases Cray's passionate and soulful vocal delivery and the entire disc is a work of class. While some of the songs definitely work better than others for me, there is not a true loser on the album. The whole album is a pleasurable listening experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Poor Johnny
They start it off with an almost reggae-like cut that has a killer groove.
That Ain't Love
This is a more pure blues number, but still with that Robert Cray style. It has a couple of unusual changes.
Does It Really Matter
This cut is based on a bluesy R & B groove. While not as strong as the last two, it works quite well.
Fadin' Away
This slow bluesy cut is another cool one and a step back up.
My Last Regret
Here Cray and company put in a great old school bluesy jazz groove.
It Doesn't Show
Based in a slow blues mode, this one has a killer old school texture.
I'm Walkin'
This is a faster, more high-energy blues jam. 
This haunting ballad that tells the tale of a soldier whose life was lost in Iraq is incredibly potent and the best track on the disc, by a long shot. And as good as the rest of the material here is, that says a lot about this one!
I Forgot to Be Your Lover
This pretty ballad has a classic R & B sound.
Two Steps From the End
This slow bluesy number with a definite gospel flavor ends the disc in fine style, but there were better closers from which to choose.
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