Half Notes: Robert Cray – Strong Persuader (1986)

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by Nick DeRiso

I came to know about Robert Cray by association. Digging through the blues stacks at the old SOOTO Records in the Shreveport, I stumbled across the 1985 album “Showdown!” on Alligator, featuring two I knew and one I didn’t: Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland … and some dude named Robert Cray. I bit — and boy, am I glad I did.

Cray was very obviously influenced by Collins, who burned a Telecaster legend into place at Cray’s high school graduation. But, I later followed him as a kind of new-wave Moses … the guy who made it OK for most folks to admit to liking the blues again. I mean, in the late 1980s, he was on MTV! Call him yuppie if you want, but at least he doesn’t play rock and pass it off as blues, as do so many of the new so-called crossover artists. He sealed it with me when he made a tune called “The Forecast (Calls for Pain).” Such a great blues title.

Singing something like O.V. Wright (the great 1960s singer on Memphis’ Hi Records), Cray also plays in the crisp, crying fashion of B.B. King. One well-placed guitar note might be all he hits, while others would play three or four. “Strong Persuader” (the breakthrough, with “Smoking Gun,” won him a Grammy) also includes one of my favorites from him, “Foul Play.” Just a galloping bass line.

Half Notes is a quick-take music feature on Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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