Robert Cray – This Time (2009)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Robert Cray’s era of peak popularity from the mid-eighties to the early nineties was due to his strong crossover appeal. Back then, he was a blues man at heart, but poured in a lot of soul and just a little bit of rock. His songs were modernized twists on the old themes of love found, love lost and every facet of relationships in-between. Cray had the perfect pipes to fit this style. And let’s not overlook his clean, impeccable guitar playing, either.

Twenty years and many albums later and Cray stays close to this winning combination. Someone could easily level the criticism that his records don’t vary much at all, and it’s true, one Robert Cray album sounds like any other Robert Cray album for the most part. But if you dig that Cray sound like I do, then that’s quite alright. This Time sticks to the pattern, and it’s almost too easy to find the similarities between songs of his salad days and the songs on this album. Back in 1991, his Midnight Stroll began with a number “The Forecast (Calls For Pain)” that used inclement weather as an analogy for a relationship going sour. This time, his opener “Chicken in The Kitchen” uses culinary skills as the proxy for a faltering romance. And in case you didn’t catch it from the lyrics, Cray’s still-intact chops on guitar gets the message across. “Love 2009” has a title that will soon lose its freshness but the snappy mid-tempo song itself benefits much from Cray’s crisp rhythm guitar work. “That’s What Keeps Me Rockin'” is his obligatory blues shuffle and after all these years, it remains own of his strong suits.

Like all other Cray releases, this one is attributed to “The Robert Cray Band,” and the credit he gives to his band is well-deserved, especially longtime keyboardist and songwriter Jim Pugh. But this album also marks the return of Richard Cousins, an underrated bass player who was part of the band when it was spinning off all those radio hits. It’s just speculation, but perhaps the presence of two living links to the glorious past inspired Cray to make a record that not only keeps him sticking with his old recipe, but also cook with a little more inspiration than usual. Regardless, This Time is one that no Robert Cray fan will want to be without. More casual fans are not likely to be disappointed, either.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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