Something Else! sneak peek: Robert Cray, "(Won't Be) Coming Home" (2012)

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Robert Cray’s forthcoming album, called Nothin But Love, was crafted with “dirt under the fingernails,” according to legendary producer Kevin Shirley. Stream the lead single here!

A classic breakup song, “(Won’t Be) Coming Home” arrives as the first taste of a highly anticipated new effort recorded live over two-weeks with Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, Aerosmith, The Black Crowes) at Los Angeles’s Revolver Studios. Featured are 10 tracks written by each of the Cray Band members, including keyboardist Jim Pugh, bassist and group co-founder Richard Cousins and drummer Tony Braunagel. Other key cuts include the jazzy “I’ll Always Remember You,” a grease-popping soul shouter “Great Big Old House” and “Side Dish,” a frisky, 1950s-flavored rocker.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Get stirring new insights into the Robert Cray Band from original member Curtis Salgado, who also played a key role in the creation of the Blues Brothers.]

Nothin by Love, the five-time Grammy award winner’s 16th studio album, is due August 27, 2012 from Provogue Records. In all, Cray — who burst onto the scene with the breakout 1986 recording Strong Persuader, has been nominated for an amazing 15 Grammys and sold more than 12 million albums worldwide, and has crafted his own signature line of Fender guitars.

The 57-year-old was inducted recently into the Blues Hall of Fame, becoming the youngest living legend to receive that prestigious honor.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Robert Cray. Click through the title for complete reviews …

ROBERT CRAY, THIS TIME (2009): 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 we do, then that’s quite alright.

ROBERT CRAY – TWENTY (2005): My dad introduced me to Robert Cray long ago and, even into a new century, little had changed with Cray: He was still putting out dependable, if unspectacular, albums of his smooth brand of blues — a sound that fills in that overlooked category of music that can be played in the background for pretty much anyone and it won’t offend in any way. Cray’s blues are soulful, but have enough sheen that they aren’t going to drag people’s mood down. Yet, they’re real, and therefore it never feels like inconsequential background music. Guitar-afficianados still find plenty to enjoy in his well-developed sound.

DEEP CUTS – ROBERT CRAY, “MIDNIGHT STROLL” (1990): This album sports an impressive cache of well written and well played songs, varying from the rolling bass line of the tough “The Forecast (Calls For Pain)” — which became a moderate hit — to the sassy soul of “Consequences” to the staggered rhythm of “Holdin’ Court.” Having Al Green’s Memphis Horns providing some Stax moods on most of the tracks makes it all the mo’ better. And while I can listen to this CD all the way through without skipping any songs, it’s that last track I eagerly anticipate. The song of the same name as the album, “Midnight Stroll” is blues strut the underscores the confidence of the narrator about “all the love we’re gonna make” tonight as he arrives in his “long black Caddy.” Jimmy Pugh’s greasy organ provides a solid slab of soul upon which Cray emotes and howls over. And when it’s cuttin’ time, Cray delivers.

ROBERT CRAY, STRONG PERSUADER (1986): Cray was very obviously influenced by Albert Collins — who burned a Telecaster legend into place at Cray’s high school graduation. But, he later became a kind of new-wave Moses, the guy who made it OK for most folks to admit to liking the blues again. 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. 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.

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