After 15 albums to his credit you’d think eventually someone would run out of material. Not the case with Robert Cray. The five time Grammy winner is back for one more with 10 original tracks on Nothin But Love. It’s the standard main four member blues ensemble consisting of Robert Cray (vocals/guitar), Jim Pugh (keyboards), Cray Band co-founder Richard Cousins (bass) and Tony Braunagel (drums). However, what really sets this album apart from his last works is the brilliant production of Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, Joe Bonamassa). Robert’s guitar work is front and center. Having recorded this live in studio you almost feel like you’re sitting all alone at the debut live performance.
The album starts out with probably the best track. “(Won’t Be) Coming Home” begins with a drum rumble which slips into a beguiling guitar riff. Robert adds the memories of a lost love and you believe he truly misses her as he discusses setting a place at the table for her. That is until a great cathartic solo after which he realizes that he needs to save his tears and move on himself.
The next track uses one of Robert’s favorite tricks – Using a nonstandard rhythm to play the blues. “Worry” features a lot of Jim Pugh’s keyboard work and is set over a Latin beat with a jazzy undertone. Meanwhile the New Orleans jazz influenced “I’ll Always Remember You” and the darker slow blues lament “Blues Get Off My Shoulder” both add the punch of a horn section. “Fix This” is influenced by the Memphis soul sound while “Side Dish” clearly evokes the sounds of 50s rocker and rollers like Check Berry.
The slow minor blues “I’m Done Crying” is a self affirmation that it’s time to pick himself up and get on with his life because in spite of losing everything he still has his dignity ‘cause he’s still a man. “Great Big Old House” continues dealing with the theme of loss through the repossession of a home and the resulting emptiness of the home that used to be filled with a loving family. Which is a subject that many can probably connect with currently.
The album suddenly winds down with “Sadder Days” which is a lyrical slow blues in which Robert combines his soulful voice with an emotionally restrained solo.
Cray’s ability to blend the blues with rock and other rhythm’s has always been one of the skills that has allowed him to expose another generation of fans to the blues. Do in no small part to the contribution of Kevin Shirley and phenomenal skills of someone who has been playing and singing the blues for 30 years, Nothin But Love will garner Robert another Grammy nomination and most likely a win. It will also be a hard contender for the blues album of the year.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
- Best That I Can
- (Won’t Be) Coming Home
- I’m Done Crying
- Great Big Old House
The Big Hit
- (Won’t Be) Coming Home
Review by Kevin O’Rourke