Storytelling set to music
VAIL Robert Cray plays at 8150 Thursday. His style has evolved towards the profound.With a music career spanning over 30 years, Robert Cray became widely recognized as one of the better blues players around with his major label debut, “Strong Persuader,” in 1986. Over the next few decades, Cray gravitated away from the concept of blues guitar flash and self-absorbed solos that run rampant through the genre. Instead, he finds more meaning and emotional depth in using songs to tell stories rather than as a showcase for instrumental ability. Many of the newer songs lean towards a more mellow, R&B type groove.
“The guitar flash thing is old. There are a lot of guitar players out there, and everyone’s good. What stands out? The story,” Cray said.The song “Twenty,” the title track of his last album, exemplifies the storytelling aesthetic. It’s a poignant anti-war tale of a 20-year-old who signs up for military service to avenge 9/11 and dies in Iraq. Typical of his compositional style, the music melds with the lyrics to accompany the story and express it more powerfully. It features starkly haunting chords on the electric organ, which are draped in guitar arpeggios. Cray said that despite the song’s controversial topic, it has received a lot of positive response, eliciting standing ovations from audiences around the world.
His reputation precedes him as he has won five Grammy Awards and an induction into Hollywood’s Rock Walk. He was featured at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival, and in Martin Scorcese’s film “Lightning in a Bottle,” where he jams with B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt. Cray has also sold countless albums with one double-platinum and two gold albums since the “Strong Persuader.” Three weeks off of a touring stint in Europe, Cray will play at 8150 Thursday at 10 p.m. The constant travel involved with being a successful musician doesn’t bother him, however.”Having a gig … it’s any musician’s dream. If it takes you outside the United States, then it’s even better,” Cray said.
Pete Fowler is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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