Robert Cray stopped off at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh tonight as part of his 2017 tour and brought with him not only his own very distinctive guitar sounds and vocals, but one of the tightest bands I have seen and heard in some time - Richard Cousins (Bass), Terence F Clark (Drums) and Dover Weinberg (Keyboards). It takes a long time for any band to get this good, but these guys have been at it for a while (particularly Robert and Richard – such an obvious old friendship here between them both). As well as the music though, there was good hearted humour on stage between the band themselves and the audience, and that “comfort zone” that Robert Cray and the band put everyone into right from the start just made the evening go by all too quickly.
In over 40 years as a musician/songwriter, Robert Cray has released over 20 studio albums, toured the world many times and performed with so many music legends (on stage and in the studio). He has also rightly earned credit as one of the most distinctive guitarists of his generation and a reputation as a gifted songwriter. Right from the start, the packed audience at The Queen’s Hall were expecting something special from this show, and that is what Robert Cray and the band delivered.
I have to admit to not having caught up with Robert Cray and his music for a while, and before going to this show very much had in my mind “Robert Cray the Blues Guitarist”. And yes I found that performer, but also Robert Cray the great Soul, Funk and R&B vocalist and musician too.
Opening the set with the classic sounds of “I Shiver” , followed by “Fix This”, Robert Cray and the band immediately set the tone for the evening as through blues, classic soul sounds and upbeat funk we weaved our way through old and new songs – including “I’m Done Cryin’”, and of course “Right Next Door (Because of Me)” and “Smoking Gun” from the classic 1986 album “Strong Persuader”.
Robert Cray has a new album just out “Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm”, and interestingly enough, there was no on stage promotion of this album – instead Robert Cray was happy just to let his music do any promotion for him, and “The Way We Are” from this album is simply a classic that deserves its place with any of the great soul/R&B songs that have ever been written. Throughout the evening, listening to the lyrics of Robert Cray’s music I was reminded just how good a writer he is; this side of his music can sometimes be over-shadowed by such a distinctive voice and guitar sound.
Adding hugely of course to the evening, the talents of Richard Cousins who so effortlessly provided changing bass groove and Terence F Clark keeping solid rhythms on drums. Dover Weinberg on keyboards, I could listen to endlessly as his style takes me right back to those classic soul and funk sounds of yesterday. Check out www.robertcray.com for more information on the current tour and the new album.
At the end of the show, a well deserved standing ovation and encore for Robert Cray and the band.
Opening up the show tonight, the very different musical style of Jeb Ley Nicols, an American born in Wyoming and raised in Missouri but who has swapped his native land for many years of living in Wales.
Jeb Ley Nicols has what is probably best described as a “weary of the world” mellow country style and his songs and lyrics reflect that weariness. Jeb tells stories of the ordinary man and woman and the down-trodden masses and through his lyrics you get the feeling of someone who once was maybe angry, but life has just worn away all the sharp and rough edges – a bit like a rock on the seashore worn away by the tides – what is left is something very smooth and polished. Songs like “Long Live The Loser” and “Katie Blue” show to me a musician and songwriter who has more than a little bit of the gloom of Hank Williams in his music.
I liked Jed and his laid back style of gentle misery a lot, but the contrast to Robert Cray and his music is sharp, so not quite sure how the rest of the audience took to the set.
More information on Jeb is available at www.jebloynichols.co.uk
Review by Tom King