Look who’s talking: Robert Cray’s peers say he’s bad ass

Critics and peers might have helped Robert Cray come up with his latest album title, “Nothin’ But Love.” He’s received more praise and honors that most artists could ever imagine.
Robert Cray
The Robert Cray Band plays Saturday, Sept. 21, in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
The five-time Grammy Award winner and 2011 inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame was the recipient for 2012 Album of the Year by Guitarist magazine. He turned 60 years old last month. Cray’s guitar work is tastefully superb. His songwriting and singing are equally impressive. “People don’t really realize how bad ass he is,” Keb Mo said. “His voice is flawless. His phrasing is flawless. His guitar playing, his solos are just breathtaking.” Curtis Salgado, who played harp on Cray’s first album, “Look Who’s Talking,” three decades ago, used the same adjectives. “He’s a bad-ass guitar player,” Salgado said.“He’s the best rhythm guitar player out of any of them out there. I’ll argue with anybody. I don’t think there’s anybody badder than he is.” When Cray came on the scene in the 1980s, it was as a bluesman. Music fans expected a guitarist with such skill to present himself as a gunslinger, like his contemporaries at the time Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins and Albert King. But Cray, a self-described introvert off stage, is restrained with his musical presentation. He also incorporates more R&B than the aforementioned guitar greats. “It’s the song that’s the most important thing and it’s like you said here, it is not right away the guitars jumping in your face,” Cray said. “To me it’s not the best way to deliver a story. You have to have a story and you have to have the vehicle to carry the story and the solo is just an added bonus and sometimes you don’t really need a solo.” Richard Cousins, Cray’s outgoing, lifelong friend, elaborated. “It was always our thing to make blues more than the stereotype,” Cousins said.”That was our goal always from the beginning. Robert is my favorite singing guitar player in the world. You could argue for Prince or all kinds of people but Robert’s my favorite because of his taste and restraint and not just things for braggadocio. It has to mean something for him to play it or sing it. “So we always wanted to make the blues itself a song-orientated gene. Not guitar oriented or piano oriented or harmonica orientated or any instrument-orientated genre. A song-orientated genre.” Roy Rogers, the one with chops not chaps, is a fan of the song presentation. “It’s like a deep conversation with somebody as opposed to just blazing,” Rogers said. “He can jam as good as anybody but he’s got soulful chops. Your guitar style mimics your voice. His guitar goes perfectly with his vocal chops, the way he sings. It’s kind of a call and response in his own way.” After a long hiatus, Cousins returned to the band in 2008. Keyboardist and songwriter Jim Pugh has been with Cray since the 1990s. Les Falconer replaced Tony Braunagel on drums last year. Falconer also drums with Keb Mo and Jack Mack and Heart Attack. The band members draw from an extensive library of Cray’s music. “We don’t have a set list,” Cray said. “We have a master list and always trying to add to it. We go onstage and we just call them.”

 The Robert Cray Band

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room Tickets: $55 available through Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com and at the Box Offices located at the entrance to the showrooms.  For Ticketmaster phone orders,Call 800-745-3000 or 866-448-7849.  Tickets also are available via www.SouthShoreRoom.com.
   

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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