Robert Cray has created a sound that rises from American roots and arrives today both fresh and familiar.
Robert Cray began his adventure with music as a teenager. At school, he “figured out” the playing of his first guitar idols, Jimi Hendrix and Steve Cropper, listened to bluesman records: B.B. King, Albert King and Magic Sam. Interestingly, this musician grew up (as a son of a military man, he changed places of residence with his family, stayed briefly in Germany) away from the geographic and social sources of the creation and cultivation of blues. During his studies (he studied architecture), he founded his first band, Steakface, with which he performed works by, among others, Hendrix, and … British groups Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull and The Faces. Soon after, Albert Collins became his musical guru, with the band he was briefly joined in 1976. (Nine years later, with him and Johnny Copeland, he took part in a session for the Alligator label, which resulted in the famous album Showdown! Collins also starred in one of the songs collected on Cray’s Shame + Sin album).
He found further inspiration in his father’s record collection: the music of Muddy Waters and Howlin ‘Wolf. “That’s when I became a fanatic. Nobody could tell me that anything was better than blues, ”said Robert Cray in an interview with Musician magazine. But his music is also inspired by rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, gospel and soul, which is emphasized by his vocal reminiscent of the masters of this genre, Sam Cooke or Otis Redding.
The way to a great career
In 1980, The Robert Cray Band released their first album Who’s Been Talkin ‘. The next one, called Bad Influence, receives four prestigious Blues Awards, and the band gives concerts in the USA, Japan and Europe, including several with Eric Clapton. After the release of the album Strong Persuader in 1986, one of the most successful in his career – also in commercial terms – an opinion-forming critic called him the “Blues Messiah”.
Frequent performances and subsequent albums (since 1995’s Some Rainy Morning have consistently ranked at the top of Billboard’s best-selling blues albums list) consolidate his position as a leading artist of the contemporary blues scene.
The great John Lee Hooker said of him that he was “ahead of his time as much as Hendrix did.” Cray had the opportunity to play on his album Boom Boom, performing a solo on the song “Same Old Blues Again”. We also hear him playing in the song “Baby Lee” on Hooker’s album The Healer.
The artist summed up 35 years of his career with the double concert album Live From Across the Pond, released in 2006 (it reached number one on the Billboard list), containing recordings made at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where the artist opened Eric Clapton’s concerts.
Robert Cray has won five Grammy Awards and dozens of other honors, and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011.