Robert Cray: In My Soul
Over the years The Hat has taken many opportunities to see Robert Cray perform live both in the UK and in the USA and I slowly determined over the years that there were actually two Mr Crays. One was the intense, powerful and moving soulful blues man who could hold an audience in his hand and take them wheresoever he chose and the other was the hang-loose festival performer, shaking it all up on stage with his mates and some extrovert joyful abandon.
On reflection, it not that difficult to understand. Cray has always been something of an enigma as a public performer and those who first came to him as a blues player often see him as a 'Marmite' character. Apart from eschewing virtually all effects boxes and the sometime irritating habit of having his techy changing or re-tuning his guitars after every number, Cray has always insisted on
ploughing his own furrow and trying not to compromise for the sake of sales and popularity.
This is not a blues album although it has Cray's blues credentials all over it. This is wonderful laid-back sometime retro soul. Produced by the experienced and acclaimed Steve Jordan (who as well as playing on some of the tracks, many of you will know from the John Mayer Trio and his fun stuff with Keith Richards famous Winos), it has a lean, spare and haunting soul atmosphere mostly throughout.
Cray is reported as saying that on this (his seventeenth) studio album the emphasis is on the story of the song and in an album of eight self-penned and three covers, the clarity of his voice is paramount. With an instrumental nod to Booker T in 'Hip Tight Onions' and covering Otis Redding, Lou Rawls and the fabulous Bobby Bland number 'Deep in My Soul' - which gives the album its title number - it is, for The Hat, the self-penned stuff that gives the album its real appeal. While in the slow and melodic 'What would you say' Cray is on familiar political ground, the opening 'You Move Me' and 'You're Everything' and 'Hold On' he is back talkin' 'bout love and its power. Those three in particular have a potency that will appeal to the romantic in all of us. I'm guessing that the 'Fine Yesterday' track will become a radio play favourite. Not only does it feature Cray's beautiful clean guitar and voice, the quizzical lyrics will take you straight back to the classic sixties soul era and you will once again understand why this multi Grammy award winner is able both to sneak up on us from left field and still be brilliantly entertaining. This is a superb album and Cray fans will be delighted to know that he is coming to the UK in the next few weeks.....