By: The Robert Cray Band
- Smoking Gun
- I Guess I Showed Her
- Right Next Door (Because of Me)
- New Blood
Robert Cray’s intelligent lyrics add a twist to the blues that has not been seen before. Instead of negative, sexist lyrics blaming women for all the world’s ills, he writes tongue-in-cheek songs like “I Guess I Showed Her,” about a man who leaves his life on suspicion (not proof) of adultery, only to wind up in a nasty hotel room — but he showed her! Another example of this twist is “Right Next Door (Because of Me).” In this song, he describes the anguish a man goes through after causing the breakup of the couple next door by having an affair with the wife. Instead of boasting, the man in the song is sorry for the pain he has caused through his inappropriate actions.
It is also easy to see why Cray is one of Eric Clapton’s favorite guitarists. His plucky, stinging style of playing is very expressive. He doesn’t use a lot of legato, so each note stands out as clearly separate from the others surrounding it, which conveys feelings of pent-up passion or frustration very well. When the notes come out, it is almost like they are exploding from the guitar, shooting out in a staccato array like a whole string of firecrackers, each one a distinct pop, but linked to the others by a fuse. He tends to play in the bridge or bridge-and-middle positions of his Stratocaster, which contributes to the sharp, bright sound of his playing. It sounds like he uses predominantly bare fingers to play, as well, though I have never actually seen him in concert to confirm this.
His chord progressions allow for standard blues pentatonic soloing, but don’t necessarily follow the everpresent twelve bar I-IV-V blues progression. He rarely strums his chords; instead he arpeggios them or plucks them with all his fingers in rapid succession to provide a light but driving rhythm.
All of these elements combine to give this album a sound that is unmistakably blues, but fresh and energetic blues. Perhaps this is because he grew up in Seattle, away from the blues centers of Chicago and the south. His sound seems to be more influenced by Chicago blues than anything else, but it still deviates from that trademark style.
Rating (out of a possible five):