Robert Cray and his band are back in Scotland, and at The Usher Hall for an always welcome stop off in Edinburgh. With a back catalogue spanning more than 40 years of music, you never know what musical gems from the past Robert Cray is going to take out of his music box and bring out on stage to play, but this set was a good balance between classics such as “Phone Booth” and “Where Do I Go From Here” and newer material including the almost answer to the previous, “I Don’t Care”. Add into this mixture the genuine warmth and humour of Robert Cray and you have the perfect antidote to a cold and windy late autumn Saturday night in Edinburgh.
Listening to Robert Cray and the band performing live is a bit like I imagine some of my classic old vinyl soul albums of yesteryears to sound if I was lucky enough to be transported back in time to a live soul/R&B show of the 1960s, but at the same time there is an indefinable contemporary edge to much of the music that stops everything being “retro in sound and feel”. The music of Robert Cray over 40 years has taken on many different colours and sounds, and this is only one aspect of a hugely talented musician and songwriter. Very much an integral part of that sound on stage is the musicians on stage with Robert Cray. Giving so much music a wonderful authentic feeling of days gone by is Dover Weinberg on keyboards and Hammond organ. I have to admit, whenever I think of the sounds of a great record label like Stax for example, it is always the Hammond organ that comes to mind first. To play these sounds live as a band, you need a very good drummer, and Terence F Clark is such a drummer, keeping a solid rhythm patter to whatever was required at any time, never flashy, never more than required, but always there, tight on time, and any performer upfront in a band, like Robert Cray, needs the security of knowing that tight rhythm section is behind him. On rhythm guitar, and making everything look effortless, is the stylish groove lines of Richard (He’s Old But He’s Hot) Cousins.
Robert Cray has always been a performer equally respected for his vocals and guitar playing skills, someone whom nature has somehow combined the talents of your favourite guitar players of yesterday with the sweet soul voice of maybe someone like Sam Cooke, and that was clearly evident on the wonderful Sam Cooke influenced “Sadder Days” contrasting with the instrumental sounds of Booker T and The MGs on “Hip Tight Onions”.
As always, huge applause for great songs from the back catalogue including, “Poor Johnny”, “I Shiver” and “Right Next Door (Because of Me)”. Robert Cray knows exactly how to move with a crowd, so when despite applause all evening, there was a little crowd reluctance, for whatever reasons, to take up his offer to dance, he just moved with the feel of the evening (nice to see someone do that). Also nice to hear Robert Cray pay his respects to the opening support band “The Mike Eldred Trio”. All in all, another smooth and stylish performance from Robert Cray and the band.
If anyone out there reading this review has any doubts as to the musical quality and diversity that Robert Cray has put down over the last 40 plus years, just visit his website at http://robertcray.com/
As just mentioned, Opening the show for The Robert Cray Band was The Mike Eldred Trio. My first time hearing this band who hail from their home of Phoenix Arizona, and hopefully not my last as there is an interesting mixture of music here on many levels. The band are Jerry Angel (drums & percussion), John Bazz (bass guitar) and Mike Eldred (guitar & vocals) and at times they reminded me of a band slightly out of another time. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but elements of them on stage took me back to seeing bands like Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band, and The Clash, perform in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With a mixture of cover versions (a good one of Burning Love) and their own material, I always got the feeling that this was a band used to playing live to bars and dance halls rather than the more polite, all seated layout of the Usher Hall tonight. I always have a liking for songwriters and the way that they use words in their lyrics, and “For A Girl” is a song that deserves to get heard at anytime, anywhere.
The band have a feel of an older “good time” rock’n’roll band from earlier years, and at times their drummer just seems to get that 60s drum pattern feel perfect. They are also a band bringing their own music to the world, and their new album “Baptist Town” is worth visiting their website at http://mikeeldredtrio.com for more information about.
Review by Tom King